Mechanics Lien & Notice FAQs
It’s easy to file Florida mechanics liens with zlien, the web’s leading all-in-one mechanics lien compliance manager and security platform. Plus, the zlien platform can help you prepare and file mechanics lien cancellations, preliminary notices, and more. To learn more about Florida’s mechanics lien law, read the information below.
Notice to Owner Deadlines
Mechanics Liens Deadlines
Notice to Owner Deadlines
Mechanics Liens Deadlines
Notice to Owner Deadlines
Mechanics Liens Deadlines
Did You Know that Sending a Notice to Owner Is Required in Florida?
In most cases, sending a preliminary notice (which is commonly known as a “Notice to Owner” or NTO) is required in the state of Florida. For a 1-page guide explaining how Florida’s NTO requirement works, including a free Notice to Owner template, click on the banner below.
5 Things to Know About Florida Mechanics Liens
1) Notice to Owner is Strictly Required
As stated above, if you don’t deliver a preliminary notice (known in Florida as a Notice to Owner) soon after first providing labor or materials, you will likely lose your mechanics lien rights.
All parties who did not contract directly with the property owner must serve a Notice to Owner (NTO) within 45 days of furnishing labor and/or materials to the construction project, except for two small exceptions: (1) individual wage-laborers are not required to send an NTO, nor are (2) architects, engineers, or other design professionals.
Property owners may request from their direct contractors (i.e. general contractors) a list of subcontractors and suppliers that are working on the project. If that happens, the contractor must supply within 10 days from the request a list of all subcontractors and suppliers that they have hired.
As to whom must receive the notice, the following rules apply:
– If hired by the general contractor, send the notice to the property owner.
– If hired by a subcontractor, send the notice to the property owner and the general contractor.
– If hired by a sub-subcontractor, send the notice to the property owner, the general contractor and the subcontractor.
– If you don’t know who these parties are, don’t fret. Florida’s notice to owner laws allow you to reply on specifically publicly available information.
The Florida Notice to Owner must be sent Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested.
2) You Must File Your Mechanics Lien Within 90 Days from Last Doing Work (Warranty Work Not Included)
In some states, the lien deadline starts to count from the end of the entire construction project. Florida lien law says otherwise.
Mechanics lien claimants in Florida must record their mechanics lien within 90 days from the last day they provided labor, services or materials to a construction or renovation project. The 90-day period begins to count down when the substantive portion of your work is completed, and you cannot include the correction of deficiencies in work, punch-list work, or warranty work in determining this date. For equipment rental companies specifically, the last date of furnishing is the last date the equipment was actually on site and available to the parties for use.
When recording your Florida mechanics lien, be careful where you are recording. While most counties maintain property records with the Clerk of Court, there are some exceptional counties in which a designated “County Recorder” is responsible for property records. Determine ahead of time where you must file your lien so that you don’t become confused and miss your deadline.
3) Not Everybody in Florida Qualifies For Lien Rights
In most cases, Florida mechanics lien law grants lien rights to contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment rental companies, laborers and professionals. Florida does not require that you have a written contract to file a mechanics lien, so contracts can be oral, written, express or implied. However, the following parties do not have any rights to file a Florida mechanics lien:
– Sub-sub-subcontractors (those hired by sub-subs)
– Suppliers to suppliers
– Suppliers to sub-sub-subcontractors
– Anybody who is required to be licensed in Florida, but who is not
– Maintenance workers (In order to qualify for a mechanics lien in Florida, the work and/or materials provided must permanently improve the property)
4) Exaggerating a Florida Lien Claim Is a 3rd Degree Felony
Do not exaggerate your mechanics lien claim. This rings true in all states, but is especially important in Florida.
While this seems easy enough to avoid, it can sometimes be tough to distinguish between a “mistake” subject to a “good faith argument”, and a willful or negligent exaggeration. Florida does not allow lien claimants to include amounts for unapproved change orders, unperformed work, or similar claims for damage payments within the mechanics lien. Thus, doing so can lead to a fraudulently exaggerated lien. Similarly, lien claimants should not add costs, lien fees, interest, or attorneys fees to their Florida mechanics lien.
There is no reason to include these amounts on the lien claim and face the risk of an exaggerated lien, because these amounts may be recoverable by the prevailing party in litigation. They specifically cannot be added to the lien itself, however, because Florida mechanics lien law only allows lienors to encumber the property for the value of its actual permanent improvement to the property. This rule is typical throughout the country.
5) Know the Deadline to Enforce (Foreclose) Your Lien… and All Exceptions
In Florida, just like everywhere else, mechanic liens are only effective for a specifically defined period of time. Once that time period passes, the lien expires, unless you’ve filed a lawsuit to foreclose upon the property and the lien. The general rule in Florida is that the lien foreclosure action is due within 1 year from the date on which the lien was recorded.
This 1-year foreclosure period can be shortened by the property owner to as little as 60 or 20 days from when the lien is recorded, via the following enforcement deadline exceptions:
– The foreclosure period is reduced to 60 days after the lien is filed if the property owner serves a Notice of Contest of Lien.
– The foreclosure period is reduced to 20 days after the lien is filed if the owner or interested party files a lawsuit complaint and the county clerk issues a summons to the lienor.
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Florida Frequently Asked Questions
Florida Mechanics Lien FAQs
In Florida, the protection of a mechanics lien is broadly available. The following parties have mechanics lien rights: Prime contractors, subcontractors, sub-subs, laborers, material supplier to owner/contractor/sub/or sub-sub, and professionals (architect, landscape architect, interior designer, engineer, surveyor or mapper). In order to have lien rights in Florida, a license is a prerequisite for those entities by which license is required by Florida law. If a contractor is not licensed as required, the sub’s, sub-sub’s, and supplier’s lien rights are not affected. Parties without mechanics lien protection in Florida include suppliers to suppliers, and suppliers to any subcontractor beyond the second tier.
We frequently write about different industries and scenarios and whether mechanics lien rights exist. Recently, we wrote about landscapers and whether they have rights under Florida law, which was addressed recently by a Florida appeals court. As explained in that article, “a landscaping company ‘planting for landscaping purposes’ is considered contribution of a permanent improvement. However, simple landscaping maintenance services (like lawn mowing) does not qualify.” Further, a court in a recent Florida case (2011) gave a detailed discussion of who can and cannot file liens under Florida’s lien laws.
Florida law requires that all lien claimants file their mechanics lien within 90 days of the date they last supplied labor or materials.
Florida law requires that the Claim of Lien be served on the owner of the liened property either prior to the recording of the lien or within 15 days of its recording. Failure to do so will render the lien voidable to the extent that the failure is shown to be prejudicial to any person entitled to rely on such service. The notice may be served by personal delivery, by sending by registered or certified mail return receipt requested, by sending second-day delivery with evidence of delivery, or if none of those can be accomplished, by posting on the premises.
No. Extraneous amounts for anything not specifically contributing to the permanent improvement of real property are not allowed in a lien claim. However, attorney’s fees are recoverable as costs in a lien foreclosure action (pursuant to F.S. 713.29). Despite being statutorily available to the “prevailing party,” recent Florida cases shows that it is difficult to be certain as to whether you will or will not be awarded attorney fees. See: Florida Mechanics Lien Cases Award Attorney Fees To Prevailing Party Only Sometimes.
Unlike attorney’s fees and “extraneous amounts,” it is important to note that Florida is among a minority of states that expressly allows claimants to include “unpaid finance charges” within the lien claim. Specifically, F.S. §713.08(1)(g) provides that the lien claim must state “The amount unpaid the lienor for such labor or services or materials and for unpaid finance charges due under the lienor’s contract.”
Generally, a Florida mechanics lien must be enforced within one year of the date the lien was recorded. However, this time period can be both extended and shortened. If the lien claimant supplied labor or materials after the original lien was recorded, and filed an amended claim of lien noting that later date, the one-year time limitation runs from the date the amended lien was filed. Either of those one-year periods may be shortened, however. If the owner or owner’s agent files and serves a Notice of Contest of Lien, the time limit is shortened to 60 days from that date. Also, any interested party may shorten the time limit to a mere 20 days by filing and serving a summons and complaint to show cause why the lien should not be enforced by suit, or vacated.
Florida mechanics liens have priority over encumbrances to the property that were not recorded prior to the mechanics lien attaching to the property. Any encumbrance that was properly recorded prior to the date that the mechanics lien attached to the property has priority over the subsequent mechanics lien. Mechanics liens themselves have a hierarchy under Florida law. The priority of mechanics liens is by class as follows: 1) Liens of laborers, 2) Liens of all other claimants other than the general contractor, 3) Liens of the general contractor. If the total amount available is less than required to pay all liens on the property, the liens are to be paid by class, either in full or pro rata, before any liens in a subsequent class are paid.
No. Florida requires that the property be described sufficiently for identification. This does not require a legal property description.
Yes. Florida law requires that a mechanics lien must be notarized to be valid.
It depends. Florida law states that “no lien shall exist in favor of any contractor, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor who is unlicensed,” as well as unlicensed professionals. However, if a properly licensed lienor contracts with an unlicensed lienor, the rights of the properly licensed lienor are unaffected. Further, there is no requirement for a labor or materialman to possess any type of license.
A mechanics lien may be filed against an individual condominium just as against every other property. If a claim is to be filed against a condominium project as a whole, such that it is to attach to each unit in a condominium development, each individual property owner must have consented to the project. However, if the condominium association consents to or contracts for the work, each individual condominium owner is presumed to have consented.
A lienor may be required to execute a waiver or release of lien in exchange for a progress payment, or a final payment.
Florida statutorily mandates that all parties on a construction project use certain legislatively designed construction lien waiver forms. This state is one of only 11 states that requires this. If a contractor or owner asks you to use a lien waiver form that does not conform to the statutory form, the waiver will be invalid and the contractor could get in legal trouble. See this article: The States with Statutory Lien Waiver Forms. Also, Florida state law prohibits contractors and suppliers from waiving their right to file a mechanics lien in contract.
To learn more about lien waivers, see our Florida Lien Waiver FAQs and Resources.
Florida Preliminary Notice FAQs
It depends, but generally the answer will be yes. Preliminary notices (called “Notices to Owner” in Florida) are very closely integrated into the fabric of the state’s mechanics lien laws. Most participants will need to send a notice, and if a notice is required pursuant to the statutes, the requirement is very firm. We talked about this in the article “Florida Preliminary Notice – Ain’t No Sunshine If Its Not Sent.” To read the reverse of this (i.e. the exceptions to the state’s NTO requirements), read this article: Exceptions to Florida’s NTO Requirements.
Any party (except wage laborers) who does not have a direct contractual relationship with the property owner is required to serve a Notice to Owner within the earlier of 1) 45 days from first furnishing services or materials, 2) 45 days from when work begins on making specialty materials, or 3) 45 days before owner’s final payment to prime contractor. If the contractor posted a payment bond, and the property owner recorded the bond with his Notice of Commencement, all lien claimants who did not contract directly with the owner must serve the contractor a Notice to Contractor within 45 days of the date on which they first supplied labor or materials. Laborers and design professionals are not required to provide the preliminary notice to owner. Read more about the requirements and potential pitfalls of Florida’s Notice to Owner, here. Also, be careful to avoid these Florida NTO Mistakes That Can Kill Your Lien Rights.
Some companies worry that sending preliminary notice may scare their customers. However, as shown in this article, that is not the case: Florida Notice to Owner – Will Sending It Upset Your Customer?
Parties required to send the notice to owner must send it within the earlier of 1) 45 days from first furnishing services or materials, 2) 45 days from when work begins on making specialty materials, or 3) before owner’s final payment to prime contractor.
One common problem for those who must send Notices to Owner is not knowing exactly who to send it to. Sure, you may know to send the NTO to the property owner and the general contractor, but what can you do if you don’t know who the property owner or general contractor actually is? While this is a frustrating question mark in many states’ lien schemes, Florida actually makes it quite clear that notice senders can rely on publicly available information.
Failure to provide the notice to owner within the statutorily mandated time frame is fatal to the lien claim in Florida.
The notice to owner should be sent by registered, Global Express Guaranteed, or certified mail, with postage prepaid.
The notice to owner must be served on the owner, and all other parties “up the chain” from the party providing the notice.
Florida’s mechanics lien rules are unique in that property owners or agents of the owner are required to file a “Notice of Commencement” at the start of the project, and when this is done, they are allowed to appoint an “Owner Designee.” This “Owner Designee” is a person or organization who will receive Notice to Owner filings on behalf of the owner. Generally speaking, when an Owner Designee is designated in a Notice of Commencement, the furnishing party can provide notice to that party instead of the actual owner. There are many complexities presented, however, in the case the Owner Designee changes, is not designated in the Notice of Commencement, or if a Notice of Commencement cannot be located. We wrote about the Owner Designee and how it impacts a party’s notice requirements in “Florida Mechanics Lien Law: Preliminary Notice and the Owner Designee.”
Another complexity may exist if the ownership of a property transfers or changes during the course of a construction project. This was addressed in a recent Florida case, that we wrote about here: What can happen to the notice requirements if the property is transferred to another owner.
The notice to owner is considered delivered at the time of mailing only if the notice is sent within 40 days of first furnishing labor or materials, otherwise, the notice is considered served on the date of receipt.