LEARNING THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE / NUANCES UNDER FLORIDA’S LIEN LAW

images-1It is advantageous for all construction participants / lienors in Florida (e.g., owner, contractor, subcontractor, supplier, design professional) to learn the nuances under Florida’s Lien Law (and, in actuality, in any state the lienor performs work in).  This way, the lienor can learn the tricks of the trade in order to put them in the best position possible to protect their interests under the lien law.

 

For instance, under Florida Statute s. 713.165 (set forth at the bottom of this posting), there is a trick of the trade that allows an owner to formally request from its contractor a list of the subcontractors and suppliers the contractor hired.  “If the contractor fails to furnish the list, the contractor thereby forfeits the contractor’s right to assert a lien against the owner’s property to the extent the owner is prejudiced by the contractor’s failure to furnish the list or by any omissions from the list.”  Fla. Stat. s. 713.165(2).  Sure, it may be difficult for an owner to establish how it was “prejudiced” by the contractor’s failure to timely provide the list of subcontractors and suppliers (it would be an argument established on a case-by-case basis), it is still a defense to the contractor’s lien action that an owner can legitimately raise if the list is not timely furnished. And, from the contractor’s perspective, there is no reason to even deal with the risk that the trier of fact found it prejudicial that the list was not timely provided.

 

Further, under Florida Statute s. 713.16(1) (material portion set forth at the bottom of this posting), an owner can request from a lienor a copy that lienor’s contract.   Likewise, the lienor can request a copy of the owner’s contract with the general contractor as well as a copy of the contract between the lienor’s customer and the customer’s customer.  See 8 Fla.Prac., Constr. Law Manual s. 8:32 (2013-2014 ed.) (explaining application of s. 713.16).  “For example, a sub-subcontractor can lawfully request a copy of the direct contract between the owner and the [general] contractor, as well as a copy of the contract between the subcontractor (sub-subcontractor’s customer) and the contractor (sub-subcontractor’s customer’s customer).” See id.  “If the owner or lienor refuses or neglects to furnish such copy of the contract…any person who suffers any detriment thereby has a cause of action against the person refusing or neglecting to furnish the same…for his or her damages sustained thereby.”  Fla. Stat. s.713.16(1).

 

 

As exemplified, there are tricks of the trade under Florida’s Lien Law that an unwary construction participant / lienor could fall trap to.  This would apply to any state the lienor is performing work in.  Don’t fall trap to the nuances of the lien law or tricks of the trade!  Spend the time to understand the nuances and utilize the services of a knowledgeable construction attorney that will help you navigate around the lien law to best protect your interests!

 

 

Florida Statute s. 713.165:

 

(1) An owner of real property may request from the contractor a list of all subcontractors and suppliers who have any contract with the contractor to furnish any material or to perform any service for the contractor with respect to the owner’s real property or improvement to the real property. The request must be in writing and delivered by registered or certified mail to the address of the contractor shown in the contract or the recorded notice of commencement.

(2) The contractor must within 10 days after receipt of the property owner’s written request, furnish to the property owner or the property owner’s agent a list of the subcontractors and suppliers who have a contract with the contractor as of the date the request is received by the contractor. If the contractor fails to furnish the list, the contractor thereby forfeits the contractor’s right to assert a lien against the owner’s property to the extent the owner is prejudiced by the contractor’s failure to furnish the list or by any omissions from the list.

(3) A list furnished under this section shall not constitute a notice to owner.

 

 

Florida Statute s. 713.16(1):

 

(1) A copy of the contract of a lienor or owner…must be furnished by any party thereto, upon written demand of an owner or a lienor contracting with or employed by the other party to such contract. If the owner or lienor refuses or neglects to furnish such copy of the contract…any person who suffers any detriment thereby has a cause of action against the person refusing or neglecting to furnish the same…for his or her damages sustained thereby. …The person demanding such documents must pay for the reproduction thereof; and, if such person fails or refuses to do so, he or she is entitled only to inspect such documents at reasonable times and places.

 

 

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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