My recommendations (not the rules) for how to make your construction lien enforceable. These recommendations anticipate the most frequent "gotchas" subcontractors and contractors encounter in trying to enforce liens for their work.
Identify the Players
Get a copy of the Notice of Commencement for the project. It will be recorded in the county records of the county where the project is located. You will use it for the notice addresses discussed below.
Set the Stage
Tell the players you are working on the project by mailing a Notice to Owner to each person on the contracting chain above you. If you are a subcontractor, you will mail a NTO to the contractor, the owner and any other party designated on the Notice of Commencment. Make sure you send the NTO by certified mail and keep track of the mailing receipt (green card). You should put it in the mail within 40 days of your first day of work.
Well, if things haven't gone well on the project, and you are waiting for payment, you should prepare and file a Claim of Lien. You should have a reminder to make this decision within 60 days of your last day of work (real work) on the project. You will record the Claim of LIen in the county records of the county where the project is located.
Notify the Players
Within 15 days of the date of recording your Claim of Lien, you must send a copy of the Claim of Lien to everyone above you in the contracting chain. You will use the addresses in the Notice of Commencement just like you did for the NTO, and you will send it by certified mail again. Make sure you keep track of the "green card" receipts.
Final Act - Option 1
If you have not received payment on your Claim of Lien within 9 months of the date you recorded your Claim of Lien, you will have to file a lawsuit to enforce your rights. You CANNOT "re-record" the Claim of Lien to extend this time. You are stuck with the original filing date. If your construction business is a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), you will be required to use an attorney to file the lawsuit. I recommend that you use a board certified construction lawyer.
Final Act - Option 2
It is possible that you will receive a Notice of Contest of Lien or a lawsuit for discharge of the lien after you have mailed the Claim of Lien to the parties above you in the contracting chain. You must respond to these documents in very short time periods. Call a board certified construction lawyer for help.
Additional resources provided by the author
§ 713.01 -0713.37, Florida Statutes
§ 713.13, Florida Statutes, Notice of Commencement
§ 713.06, Florida Statutes, Notice to Owner
§ 713.08, Florida Statutes, Claim of LIen
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