Liens are a legal remedy used by contractors, construction companies, and home service providers in Florida to ensure payment for completed services. A lien allows them to make a claim against your property to settle a debt. While an involuntary home sale to pay off the debt is rare, liens can make selling or refinancing your home difficult. Construction lien law can be complex and confusing, so this article is an overview and starting point. One priority for any property owner is to file a notice of commencement with the local clerk’s office before or very quickly after a project starts. Many clerk’s offices have an acceptable form to follow for this notice, or go to Fla. Stat. §713.13 and follow the form provided. The notice of commencement will generally have the following:
- The address of the property.
- The nature of the work performed.
- The names and addresses of the owner, general contractor, and surety.
The reason for doing this is to provide accurate information so those individuals or companies that want to file a lien have the information they need to help them do so properly. If you do not file a notice of commencement or record an inaccurate notice, this may be used by claimants whose time limit has lapsed as an exception to collect when otherwise their claim would have been barred.
Who Can File A Lien?
Under Florida’s Construction Lien Law (Chapter 713, Florida Statutes), anyone who worked on a property and didn’t receive payment for their services may file a lien on that property. Liens can be filed against your property even if you have already paid the contractor or business but they failed to pay their employees or subcontractors. Various service providers may file a lien, including material providers, contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, interior designers, and surveyors. Homeowner associations (HOAs) and the IRS can also place liens if you have unpaid dues or owe back taxes.
How Liens Are Filed
To file a valid lien in Florida, the eligible person or business must do so within 90 days from the last day they furnished labor or materials to improve the property to record a construction lien properly. The person or business owner must inform you of their intention to place a lien through a formal Notice to Owner, following the specific format stated in Chapter 713 of the Florida Statutes. The Notice to Owner should include your name and address, a description of the services or work performed, the amount due, the filing date, and a clear warning about the implications of a lien, as described in the statute. A proper lien acts as security to their right to payment from the property owner, and once recorded, the lien is valid for one (1) year.
How Do You Remove a Lien From Your Property?
If you receive a Notice to Owner or discover a lien on your property, you have several options to attempt its release:
- Pay off the lien. The most straightforward and quickest way to remove a lien is to pay off the debt owed to the contractor or service provider with a valid claim against your property. Keep a record of all payments made, and once the final payment is made, request a final payment affidavit and a formal release of lien to ensure its removal from your property record.
- Request a Lien Release If you believe the lien was wrongfully filed, you can request a formal release of the lien from the lienor. Provide documentation proving the debt was paid in full and request the lien’s removal.
- File a Contest of Lien. The owner may pressure the business or person filing the claim by filing a Notice of Contest of Lien form as provided in the body of the statute (Fla. Stat. §713.22(2)), which shortens the time the claimant has to institute their action to sixty (60) days, or the lien is automatically extinguished.
- Allow the Lien to Expire. If the lienor fails to file a lawsuit within 1 year of filing the lien or 60 days from a Contest of Lien, the lien automatically expires.
Real Estate Attorneys You Can Trust: The Boutty Law Firm. Dealing with property liens in Florida can be complex and requires adherence to specific guidelines outlined in state law. If you have a lien on your property, seek assistance from experienced real estate attorneys like our team at The Boutty Law Firm. Contact our Maitland, Florida, office at 407-622-1395 to discuss your case.