CONDITIONAL PAYMENT BONDS AND TRANSFERRING A LIEN TO THAT BOND

imagesThere are two types of statutory payment bonds that can be furnished on private construction projects in Florida: (1) unconditional payment bonds issued pursuant to Florida Statute s. 713.23 and (2) conditional payment bonds issued pursuant to Florida Statute s. 713.245.

 

With an unconditional payment bond, an owner’s real property is exempt from construction liens from subcontractors and suppliers.

 

However, with a conditional payment bond, an owner’s real property is not exempt from construction liens from subcontractors and suppliers.  The conditional payment bond operates to condition claims against the bond to the extent the general contractor (principal of the bond) received payment from the owner.  If the general contractor did not receive payment from the owner, then the conditional payment bond does not apply.  If the general contractor did receive payment from the owner, then the conditional payment bond can operate to transfer the lien to the security of the conditional payment bond.

 

Because a lienor realistically has no way of knowing whether the general contractor was paid for their work, they are required to timely perfect their lien rights under Florida law.  This means serving a Notice to Owner and recording a construction lien within 90 days of final furnishing. 

 

Conditional payment bonds are fairly confusing so let’s use hypotheticals to explain.

 

Hypothetical #1:   Owner pays contractor for painting scope of work.  Painter timely served a Notice to Owner and recorded its lien for $75,000. 

 

The objective here would be to transfer the painter’s lien to the conditional payment bond since the contractor has been paid for this work. Under this scenario, the owner or the contractor can record within 90 days from the recording of the lien a Certificate of Payment to the Contractor certifying that the contractor has been paid $75,000 (full lien amount) for the work described in the lien.   The Certificate of Payment to the Contractor would be recorded with a Notice of Bond attaching a copy of the conditional payment bond.

 

If the contractor records the Certificate of Payment to the Contractor (together with the Notice of Bond), then the lien will be transferred to the conditional payment bond to the extent of the payment identified. 

 

If the owner records the Certificate of Payment to the Contractor (together with the Notice of Bond), the contractor can do three things: (1) record a Joinder in Certificate of Payment agreeing with the Certificate of Payment to the Contractor recorded by the owner, (2) record a Notice of Contest of Payment stating that the contractor has only been paid “x” amount of the lien; or (3) do nothing.   If the contractor does nothing or records a joinder in the Certificate of Payment, the lien will be transferred to the bond.  If the contractor records a Notice of Contest of Payment, the “contested” portion will remain a lien against the real property and any uncontested amount will be transferred to the conditional payment bond.

 

Hypothetical #2:  Owner paid contractor $50,000 but painter’s lien is $75,000.  Owner records Certificate of Payment to the Contractor for $75,000.

 

Under this scenario, the contractor may want to record a Notice of Contest of Payment within 90 days from the lien certifying it has only been paid $50,000.  If the contractor does this, the painter will have a $25,000 lien claim (the contested amount) and a $50,000 claim transferred to the conditional payment bond (the uncontested amount) since this amount would be transferred to the bond.

 

Hypothetical #3: Owner paid contractor for the painter’s scope and the painter liened.  Neither the contractor nor the owner recorded a Certificate of Payment to the Contractor together with a Notice of Bond within 90 days from the lien.

 

Under this scenario, the painter’s lien has not been transferred to the conditional payment bond even though the owner paid the contractor for the painting scope of work.   But, the lien can still be transferred to the security of the conditional payment bond even after 90 days and even after the painter files a lien foreclosure lawsuit.  The same procedure will still need to be followed with the recording of a Certificate of Payment to the Contractor together with the Notice of Bond. The difference is that the Notice of Bond must be jointly signed by the owner, the contractor, and the surety for the lien to be transferred to the bond.  See Fla.Stat. 713.245(4) (“Any notice of bond recorded more than 90 days after the recording of the claim of lien shall have no force or effect as to that lien unless the owner, the contractor and the surety all sign the notice of bond.”).

 

As you can see, conditional payment bonds can be procedurally confusing.  The key for a lienor is that it still must perfect its lien rights and record and pursue its construction lien.  The key for the owner and the contractor is that there are steps in place to transfer the lien or a portion of that lien (based on what the contractor has been paid) to the security of the conditional payment bond.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

 

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