QUICK NOTE: TIMELY RECORDING CONSTRUCTION LIEN

A construction lien needs to be recorded within 90 days from a lienor’s final furnishing date.  This date is exclusive of punchlist or warranty-type work (i.e., repairs to lienor’s own work).   A lienor’s final furnishing date will be included in the construction lien as the lienor’s last date on the job.

 

A lienor’s final furnishing date is a question of fact to be decided by the trier of fact.  In other words, if an owner (or party challenging the enforcement of the lien) argues that the lien was untimely recorded, the party will be arguing that the lienor failed to timely record its lien within 90 days of its final furnishing date.  The application of this fact-driven issue, as further discussed in this article, is: whether the work was: 1) performed in good faith; 2) performed within a reasonable time; 3) performed in pursuance of the lienor’s contract; and 4) necessary for a completed project.  Just remember, a final furnishing date will not include punchlist or warranty work a lienor is performing on the project.   If a lien is recorded outside of this 90-day window, the lien will be deemed unenforceable.  It is always a good practice to ensure a lien is recorded, at a minimum, weeks before the 90-day period expires to avoid any issue or argument with the lien being untimely recorded.

 

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.

CONSTRUCTION LIEN NEEDS TO BE RECORDED WITHIN 90 DAYS FROM LIENOR’S FINAL FURNISHING

shutterstock_239963452A lienor needs to record its construction lien within 90 days of its final furnishing dateThis final furnishing date excludes punchlist, warranty, or the lienor’s own corrective work.   A lien recorded outside of ths 90-day window will be deemed invalid.

 

The opinion in In re: Jennerwein, 309 B.R. 385 (M.D. Fla. 2004) provides a good discussion of this 90-day window.  This matter dealt with a debtor / owner’s bankruptcy where the owner was contesting the validity of a construction lien by its pool contractor.  The owner contended that the lienor’s lien was recorded outside of this 90-day window thus rendering the lien invalid.  The bankruptcy court was determining the validity of the lien.

 

In this matter, the owner hired a swimming pool contractor to construct a pool.  On October 25, 2002, the pool contractor installed pavers around the pool.  After this was performed, the pool contractor realized the owner was unable to obtain the financing to pay for the pool.  As a result, the pool contractor ceased doing any more improvements.  But, neither the pool contractor nor the owner terminated the contract.  Then, on November 27, 2002, the pool contractor sent a supervisor to the property to inspect the pool (work-in-place), the pool equipment, the installed pavers, made a list of the unfinished work, and remove any debris.  On January 27, 2003, the pool contractor recorded its lien.

  

The issue is that if the last day the pool contractor did work was on October 25, 2002 which is when it installed the pavers (the final furnishing date), then the lien it recorded on January 27, 2003 was not timely.  The lien was recorded more than 90 days from October 25, 2002.  However, if the last day the pool contractor did work was on November 27, 2002 when it sent a supervisor to inspect the work and remove debris, then the lien was timely as it was recorded within the 90-day window.

 

In Florida, the test to determine whether labor, services, or materials were furnished is whether the work was: (i) performed in good faith; (ii) within a reasonable time; (iii) in pursuance of the terms of the contract; and, (iv) whether the work was necessary to a “finished job.”… The application of this fairly straight- forward four step test is fact driven, and the facts of each construction project vary widely.

In re: Jennerwein, 309 B.R. at 388.

 

The Bankruptcy Court applied this four step test to determine whether the pool contractor’s inspection / visit on November 27, 2002 constituted its final furnishing date.  Based on the facts, the Court held that November 27, 2002 did constitute a final furnishing date meaning the lien was valid.   Although the pool contractor’s visit on this day was limited, the contract was still in effect (i.e., it was not terminated).  The pool contractor was operating in good faith and the supervisor was conducting his normal job duties by checking on the status of the work. This visit was also deemed to occur within a reasonable time after the pavers were installed. Although the project remained idle after the pavers were installed, this was because the owner was trying to find financing to pay for the work.  Further, the supervisor’s inspection was performed in pursuance of its work and the contract.  Without a list as to the work that remained to be completed, the contractor would not have a schedule of work and materials needed to finish its job.

 

This factual-based finding is favorable to a lienor.  Between the October 25, 2002 date the pavers were installed and the November 27, 2002 date the supervisor visited the property, there was no work.  The pool contractor stopped work because it was not getting paid and it obviously did not want to perform more work knowing that work was not going to get paid for.  However, neither party formally terminated the contract.  The supervisor’s visit was nothing more than confirming the work it performed versus the work it did not perform and remove any debris, etc., that remained on the job.  In other words, the pool contractor was leaving based on the non-payment.  However, the Court deemed the visit to be in good faith and pursuant to the contract allowing this date to be deemed a final furnishing date.  That is a favorable finding when, in reality, the last date the lienor physically improved the property was a month earlier when the pavers were installed.

 

The final furnishing date, as you can tell, will be a fact-based determination.  And, the four step test will be applied to determine the merits of the final furnishing date.  However, I always try to operate conservatively; it is always safer to record the lien sooner than later to take away any close-call argument that the lien should be invalid because it was recorded outside of the 90-day window.

 

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.

FINAL FURNISHING DATE IS A QUESTION OF FACT

images-1Construction liens need to be recorded within 90 days from the lienor’s final furnishing date on the project.  This date is exclusive of punchlist or warranty work. The final furnishing date needs to be proven at trial to establish that the construction lien was timely recorded.  If there is an evidentiary dispute as the final furnishing date (the contractor claims the date was “x” to establish the lien was timely and the owner claims the date was “y” to establish the lien was untimely), then the date is a question of fact to be determined by the jury. 

 

For instance, in Best Drywall Services, Inc. v. Blasczyk, 2016 WL 6246701 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016), a contractor and owner entered into an oral agreement for a residential renovation project.  The contractor recorded a construction lien after its final two invoices went unpaid.  During trial, the contractor offered conflicting evidence as to when its final furnishing date on the project was.  Numerous dates were offered in the record including dates that were more than 90 days prior to the date the contractor recorded its lien, meaning the lien was arguably untimely.  As a result, the trial judge entered a directed verdict in favor of the owner and against the contractor on the contractor’s lien claim finding the lien was untimely recorded. 

 

On appeal, the Second District reversed the directed verdict against the contractor on its construction lien expressing that the conflicting evidence on different final furnishing dates was sufficient to create an issue of fact for the jury to determine the timeliness of the contractor’s lien–“If there are conflicts in the evidence or different reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence, the issue is factual and should be submitted to the jury.”  Best Drywall Services, Inc. supra quoting Simz v. Cristinzio, 898 So.2d 1004, 1005 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005). 

 

The final furnishing date is an important part of any construction lien claim to establish the timeliness of the lien.  Make sure this final furnishing date can be supported by reasonable competent evidence (testimonial evidence supported by daily reports, payroll records, pay apps, inspections, etc.). 

 

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.

QUICK NOTE: SUIT AGAINST MILLER ACT PAYMENT BOND MAY NOT BE BROUGHT UNTIL 90 DAYS AFTER FINAL FURNISHING

 

imagesIf you have a claim against a Miller act payment bond, a lawsuit cannot be brought until 90 days after your final furnishing date.  This is set forth in 40 USC s. 3133(b)(1) that provides if you “have not been paid in full within 90 days after the day on which…[you]…performed the last of the labor or furnished or supplied the material for which the claim is made [you] may bring a civil action on the payment bond.”   In other words, your claim is ripe 90 days after your final furnishing date.  With that said, even if you prematurely filed suit before this 90-day period, there is authority that the lawsuit should not be dismissed, but rather, you can cure this by filing a supplemental pleading (relating back to the original pleading).  Otherwise, if the lawsuit was dismissed, you could potentially be facing a statute of limitations argument barring your right to seek a Miller Act payment bond claim.

 

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.