CONTRACTORS SHOULD NOT FORGET TO DELIVER CONTRACTOR’S FINAL PAYMENT AFFIDAVIT

shutterstock_46898038If you are a contractor and entered into a contract with an owner, then you need to serve the owner with a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit at least 5 days before filing a lien foreclosure lawsuit.  Fla. Stat. s. 713.06(3)(d).    Many times, when I am preparing a lien for a contractor, I like to work with the contractor on the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit at the same time as the lien to (for lack of a better phrase) kill two birds with one stone.  This way, both the lien and Contractors’ Final Payment Affidavit can be served on the owner at the same time and the contractor has perfected its right to foreclose on the lien when it is ready to do so.

 

As Florida Statute s. 713.06(3)(d) states:

 

The contractor shall have no lien or right of action against the owner for labor, services, or materials furnished under the direct contract while in default for not giving the owner the affidavit; however, the negligent inclusion or omission of any information in the affidavit which has not prejudiced the owner does not constitute a default that operates to defeat an otherwise valid lien. The contractor shall execute the affidavit and deliver it to the owner at least 5 days before instituting an action as a prerequisite to the institution of any action to enforce his or her lien under this chapter, even if the final payment has not become due because the contract is terminated for a reason other than completion and regardless of whether the contractor has any lienors working under him or her or not.

Failing to serve the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit can be hugely detrimental to an otherwise valid lien.  Without serving the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit, the lien foreclosure lawsuit is not proper and should be dismissed.

 

For example, in Puya v. Superior Pools, Spas & Waterfalls, Inc., 902 So.2d 973 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005), a swimming pool contractor hired by a homeowner filed a lien foreclosure lawsuit and received a foreclosure judgment in its favor.  There was one huge problem.  The contractor never served a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit 5 days before filing the lawsuit.   The Fourth District reversed the foreclosure judgment because the contractor’s failure to serve the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit deprived the contractor of the right to foreclose on the lien:  “Where a contractor fails to timely furnish a final payment affidavit, the owner is generally entitled to dismissal of the contractor’s foreclosure lawsuit.”  Puya, 902 So.2d at 974.  See also Nichols v. Michael D. Eicholtz, Enterprise, 750 So.2d 719 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000) (affirming trial court’s dismissal of lien foreclosure action where contractor failed to properly provide contractor’s final payment affidavit).

 

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.

 

LIS PENDENS – RECORDATION AND DISSOLUTION

imagesWhen you file a construction lien foreclosure lawsuit, you must also record a lis pendens in the official (public) records against the property.  This lis pendens serves as written notice that there is a lawsuit concerning the real property, and more specifically, title relating to that real property. If the property is then sold or rented, the buyer or tenant will ultimately be bound by a final determination relating to the lawsuit concerning title to the property.  This is the value in recording a lis pendens and why it is a MUST in any foreclosure lawsuit.  (This is the same value in any mortgage foreclosure lawsuit and why lis pendens are recorded in these lawsuits too.)  A lis pendens will show up in a title report.  In most instances, title companies will not issue a title policy if there is a lis pendens or may require a certain amount of money escrowed as a result of the lis pendens and pending action in order to issue a title policy.  Also, a buyer, in particular, and a tenant are not going to want to invest in property where the title to that property is at-issue in a lawsuit.  Hence, the lis pendens impacts the sale and potential re-financing of the property. 

 

With respect to the dissolution of a lis pendens, Florida Statute s. 48.23(3) provides:

 

When the pending pleading does not show that the action is founded on a duly recorded instrument [e.g., mortgage or Declaration of Condominium] or on a [construction] lien claimed under part I of chapter 713 or when the action no longer affects the subject property, the court shall control and discharge the recorded notice of lis pendens as the court would grant and dissolve injunctions.

 

Therefore, if the lawsuit (i) does not affect title to the real property, (ii) is not based on a construction lien, or (iii) is not based on a duly recorded instrument, such as a mortgage, an owner of real property is going to move to dissolve the lis pendens so that title to their property is not impacted by the lis pendens.   This is, at least, what an owner should do.

 

What happens if a lis pendens is recorded but the lawsuit is not a construction lien foreclosure lawsuit or founded on a duly recorded instrument such as a mortgage?

 

For example, what if there is a lawsuit for the specific performance of a purchase-sale contract involving real property?  In this instance, the party suing for the specific performance of the real property to be sold to it will want to record a lis pendens to put the public on notice that there is an action concerning title to that property.  But, this type of lawsuit is not founded on a duly recorded instrument or construction lien.  For this reason, the owner of the property will move to dissolve the lis pendens so that they can sell the property or re-finance the property, as the case may be.

 

A recent decision in Regents Park Investments, LLC v. Bankers Lending Services, Inc., 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1688c (Fla. 3d DCA 2016), exemplifies the scenario of a lis pendens being recorded in a dispute concerning the sale of real property and the owner of the property moving to dissolve the lis pendens.  The buyer filed a lawsuit for specific performance to force the owner to sell the property to it.  The buyer also recorded a lis pendens (as the buyer did not want the owner to sell the property to another buyer).  The owner moved to dissolve the lis pendens so that it could do what it wanted with the property without the impact of the lis pendens. 

 

The Third District explained that the burden was on the proponent of the lis pendens—the buyer that sued for specific performance that recorded the lis pendens—to establish a fair nexus between the claim asserted in the lawsuit and the real property’s titleRegents Park Investments, quoting Nu-Vision, LLC v. Corporate Convenience, Inc., 965 So.2d 232, 234-36 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).  This fair nexus means the proponent of the lis pendens must make a minimal evidentiary showing they have a good faith, viable claim in the lawsuit concerning the property’s titleId.

 

The appellate court, based on this minimal evidentiary showing of a fair nexus between the asserted claim and title the property, maintained:

 

Applying the standard of a minimal showing that there is at least some basis for the underlying claim and a good faith basis to allege facts that would at least state a viable claim, we conclude that Regents [buyer suing for specific performance that recorded lis pendens] met that standard. Regents’ showing that its claims arose out of a written contract for sale of the subject properties established a “fair nexus” to the properties and its Interrogatory answers swearing that it was ready, willing and able to close on the closing date, together with evidence that Bankers [owner] was not able to close because of the outstanding lot clearing liens against the property, provided a sufficient minimal basis to support either a claim that Regents could have performed or that its performance was excused. Consequently, we find that the trial court should not have discharged the lis pendens and reverse with instructions that it be reinstated. 

 

 

This fair nexus standard requiring a minimal evidentiary showing provides an advantage to a buyer that sued for specific performance and recorded the lis pendens.  It simply requires the buyer to proffer some evidence to support that they have a good faith, viable claim concerning title to the property.  If the buyer cannot do this, the lis pendens should be dissolved. On the other hand, if a buyer supports this fair nexus standard, then the lis pendens will not be dissolved meaning the owner’s real property will continue to be impacted by the lis pendens.  In such scenario, the owner may ask the court to require that the proponent of the lis pendens furnish a bond in the event it turns out that the buyer’s claim is not valid meaning the lis pendens was wrongfully 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.

 

 

 

 

 

AN AMENDED LIEN DOES NOT DELAY THE 60 DAY WINDOW TO FORECLOSE A LIEN WHEN A NOTICE OF CONTEST OF LIEN IS RECORDED

imagesI previously discussed the value of an owner recording a Notice of Contest of Lien under Florida Statute s. 713.22 to shorten a lienor’s statute of limitations to foreclose a construction lien to 60 days from the date the lien is contested.   For more information on recording a Notice of Contest of Lien please look at this posting and this posting.

 

What happens if after a Notice of Contest of Lien is recorded the lienor amends its construction lien? For instance, say the following sequence occurs:

 

1:  Lien

2:  Notice of Contest of Lien

3: Amended Lien

 

Does an owner need to record another Notice of Contest of Lien for the Amended Lien?  If an owner does, then a lienor could extend its 60 day window to foreclose its lien by simply recording an amended lien.

 

This exact scenario was addressed long ago by the Florida Supreme Court in Jack Stilson & Co. v. Caloosa Bayview Corp., 278 So.2d 282 (Fla. 1973) which held that the foreclosure of an amended lien MUST still be brought within the 60 days from the initial Notice of Contest of Lien.  In other words, the recording of an amended lien does NOT toll (or stop) the running of the 60 day window to foreclose the lien when a Notice of Contest of Lien is recorded.

 

Therefore, if you are an owner, there is certainly a benefit to recording a Notice of Contest of Lien.  Conversely, if you are a contractor, do not think you can delay or escape the 60 day window to foreclose your construction lien if you received a Notice of Contest of Lien by simply amending your lien.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

YES, LIEN PRIORITY IS IMPORTANT

UnknownWhen a construction lender forecloses, a lienor (e.g., contractor, subcontractor, supplier) is in a bad predicament because the lender’s mortgage will maintain priority over the lienor’s construction lien. The lienor would be named in the lender’s lawsuit (provided a lien has been recorded) because the lender will look to foreclose or wipe out the lienor’s inferior construction lien

 

From a real-world standpoint, if there is not enough equity in the real property to satisfy the lender’s mortgage / loan, there is not going to be any surplus from a foreclosure sale to satisfy the inferior construction lien(s).  Since a lien really is only as good as the equity in the real property being liened, if there is not any equity in the real property and/or the construction lender is foreclosing, pursuing the lien may be an exercise in futility.

 

Sometimes, due to the lack of equity in the real property at the time of the foreclosure, the lender will file the foreclosure lawsuit but delay in prosecuting the action.  One reason is that the lender knows the owner is under water and hopes the value in the property increases down the road.  The lender knows that it will ultimately take possession of the real property but at the time of the foreclosure the value of the property is much less than the amount owed under the loan. 

 

Unfortunately, irrespective of any delay by the lender in prosecuting the foreclosure, the lender’s interest in the real property will always take priority.  There is little the lienor can do to establish that its lien should jump priority over the lender’s mortgage.  This point was confirmed in the non-construction case U.S. Bank National Association v. Farhood, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D12594a (Fla. 1st DCA 2014), where the appellate court claimed that it was error for a trial court to sanction a lender in a mortgage foreclosure lawsuit for dilatory practices by deeming that a condominium association’s lien on a unit for unpaid assessments took priority over the mortgage.

 

So, yes, the priority of your construction lien is important and should always be a consideration in a lien foreclosure action.

 

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.