As much as we would like for construction projects to go as smoothly as possible, issues will inevitably come up especially regarding payment. When payment disputes arise, the mechanics lien is the most powerful tool a construction professional could use in order to sort the issue.
This guide will tell you the key things you need to know about filing the mechanics lien in Florida, from ensuring that you protect your lien rights to filing the mechanics lien itself.
- How to File a Mechanics Lien in Florida: A 5-Step Process
- Step 1. Serve a Notice to Owner
- Step 2. Prepare the Mechanics Lien
- Step 3. File the mechanics lien
- Step 4. Serve a copy of the mechanics lien to the owner
- Step 5. Foreclose or Release the Lien
- 3 Common Mistakes When Filing a Mechanics Lien in Florida
How to File a Mechanics Lien in Florida: A 5-Step Process
- Serve a Notice to Owner
- Prepare the Mechanics Lien
- File the Mechanics Lien
- Serve a Copy of the Lien to the Owner
- Foreclose or Release the Lien
Step 1. Serve a Notice to Owner
Florida is one of the states that require a preliminary notice also known as a Notice to Owner.
Serving a Notice to Owner is required by the law in order for your mechanics lien to be valid, so submitting this notice should always be your first step.
Also note that Florida has specific Notice to Owner requirements when it comes to format and contact, so make sure that you are filing the document using a properly prepared form.
Are all construction participants required to submit a Notice to Owner in Florida?
All contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers that are not in direct contact with the property owner must serve a Notice to Owner. Laborers (i.e. employees of contractors) and architects are generally not required to do so.
When should I submit the Notice to Owner in Florida?
The Notice to Owner must be served within 45 days after you start furnishing labor or materials to a project. You may also send the Notice to Owner before you start working on a project.
Who should I serve the Notice to Owner to?
The notice must be served to the property owner and to every party above you in the contracting chain. This means that if you’re a sub-subcontractor, you must serve the Notice to Owner to the subcontractor that you’re in direct contact with, to the general contractor, and to the property owner.
How should the Notice to Owner be sent in Florida?
You may send it by certified mail or by personal delivery. Whichever method you choose, the key is that you are able to prove your compliance to the notice requirement.
If you send the Notice to Owner by certified mail, keep you post office invoices and pick the option that asks for return receipt. If you serve the notice by hand, ask for a receipt signature from an authorized signatory (i.e. one of the property owners) to prove that they have received the document.
The best practice is to serve the Notice to Owner in Florida via certified mail with return receipt requested.
Step 2. Prepare the Mechanics Lien
Now that you have served the Notice to Owner properly and on time, you have secured your right to file a mechanics lien. The next step is to ensure that the mechanics lien you are going to file is properly prepared as well.
IMPORTANT: the Florida mechanics lien must follow a specific format and must contain specific warnings written in a specific language.
The detailed legal requirements may be found on Section 713.08 of the Florida Statutes. In general, the mechanics lien must contain the following information:
- The name and address of the claimant
- This is your information. If you are filing as an individual, include your name and address. If you are filing on behalf of your company, include your full legally registered business name and address.
- The name of the party with whom the claimant contracted
- This is the name of your direct employer. If the employer is the same as the owner, list their name(s) here anyway.
- The name of the property owner
- This is the name of the property owner, of which there may be many. If there are multiple property owners, list ALL their names.
- The labor, services, or materials furnished and their contract values
- This is a general description of the kind of services that you have rendered on the project. The amount and description of specially fabricated materials that are yet to be incorporated to the project must be separately stated.
- The general description of the property sufficient for identification
- This may simply be a full street address or the parcel information (if location is in an unnamed street). Legal property description is not required.
- The amount owed to the claimant
- This is the amount that you are owed, and it should not include any fees that are not related to the construction services you provide. Attorney fees and lien fees are not included in this amount.
- The dates on which the first and last item of labor or service was provided
- This is the date when you commenced work on a project and the date when you last furnished your services to the project.
- The date and method of service of the Notice to Owner, if applicable
- This is the date and method of delivery for your Notice to Owner. General contractors and parties that are in direct contact with the property owner must include the date of method of delivery of the copy of the notice on the contractor or subcontractor.
The following warning and information in sufficiently similar form:
Must a mechanics lien in Florida be notarized?
Yes! As stated in the statutory clause above, there is a required signature of a notary public in the form. If you file a mechanics lien that is not notarized, then it will be declared null and void by the court.
Step 3. File the mechanics lien
You have the document ready and you have had it notarized — now it’s time to file the mechanics lien.
When should I file a mechanics lien in Florida?
The mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days after the last for furnishing labor or materials to the project. The best practice is to not wait until the last day to file the mechanics lien. Missing this 90-day deadline is detrimental to the validity of your claim and to the chances of your getting paid.
Where should I file a mechanics lien in Florida?
The mechanics lien should be recorded in the county clerk’s office where the project is located. If the project is located in multiple locations, you must file the mechanics lien in each of the counties that cover the project locations.
Step 4. Serve a copy of the mechanics lien to the owner
This is another very important step that must not be missed: a copy of the mechanics lien must be served to the property owner before filing the lien or within 15 days after the mechanics lien has been filed.
How should I serve the mechanics lien to the property owner in Florida?
- By registered or certified mail of by Global Express Guaranteed.
- Always ask for proof of delivery. The lien is considered served on the date of mailing.
- By personal delivery to the property owner.
- This may be the property owners themselves or a representative of their business such as an office manager. Ask for signature as proof of delivery.
- By public posting on the work site.
- Posting the copy of the mechanics lien on a conspicuous location on the job site is also a valid way of serving it to the property owners.
Step 5. Foreclose or Release the Lien
After filing the mechanics lien in Florida, two things could happen: either you get paid or you don’t.
If you get paid, then you will have to release the lien. Releasing the mechanics lien in Florida is required, and it generally follows the same process as filing the mechanics lien. Your document must contain the same information but must also include details regarding its filing (e.g. date of filing, location of county clerk’s office, recordation book number).
Note that the lien release must be filed in the same county clerk office in which the mechanics lien was filed, and that the copy of the lien release documents must be served to the property owner and the general contractor.
IMPORTANT: It is highly advisable that you do not file a lien release in Florida before you get the payment.
If payment does not seem to be coming through, you must file a lawsuit to foreclose the lien and potentially earn your payment from the auction proceeds of the property.
The mechanics lien in Florida must be foreclosed within 1 year after its recordation in the county clerk office. However, the owner may shorten this deadline by filing a Notice of Contest to Lien. If this happens, the deadline is shortened to 60 days.
Failing to file a foreclosure lawsuit before the deadline will cause your lien to expire, after which it will no longer be enforceable.
3 Common Mistakes When Filing a Mechanics Lien in Florida
Missing a deadline
Florida does not tolerate missed deadlines, even by just one day. You must always keep track of these deadlines and submit the documents as early as you could.
Remember that the Notice to Owner may be submitted before you start work on a project, and the copy of the mechanics lien may be served to property owners before it is recorded.
Not preparing a proper mechanics lien document
The mechanics lien in Florida must contain specific information in a specific format. Be sure that these information are correct. Claimants can make silly mistakes on seemingly straightforward information, from writing an incorrect business name (e.g. not including Ltd. or Inc. in their names) to padding the lien amount with unnecessary costs.
Be diligent in filing the mechanics lien in Florida because small mistakes may cause you your right to get paid.
Failing to foreclose the lien
Failing to foreclose the lien within the deadline causes the lien to expire, which means that all your efforts of preparing the mechanics lien will essentially go to waste. If you think that payment will not be completed, you must initiate foreclosure action before the mechanics lien’s expiry date.