QUICK NOTE: NOTICE OF CONTEST OF CLAIM AGAINST PAYMENT BOND

imagesOn private jobs where the general contractor has an unconditional payment bond, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors and suppliers need to serve a notice of nonpayment to preserve payment bond rights.

 

Just like an owner can record a Notice of Contest of Lien to shorten a lienor’s statute of limitations to foreclose the lien to 60 days, a general contractor can record a Notice of Contest of Claim Against Payment Bond.  See Fla. Stat. s. 713.23(e).  When a contractor records a Notice of Contest of Claim Against Payment Bond, the contractor is contesting the notice of nonpayment and shortening the claimant’s period to sue on the payment bond to 60 days from the date of service of the notice.  

 

This tool is used less frequently than the Notice of Contest of Lien; however, it can be a very successful tool for a contractor to use when receiving a notice of nonpayment.

 

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.

THERE IS VALUE RECORDING A NOTICE OF CONTEST OF LIEN

imagesIf you receive a construction lien on your property, I have preached the value in recording a Notice of Contest of Lien to shorten the lienor’s statute of limitations to foreclose on the lien from 1 year to 60 days.  If the unwary lienor fails to foreclose its lien within the shortened 60-day window, its lien is extinguished under the law. Ouch! (Check out this article and this article for more on Notice of Contest of Liens.)

 

Now, what if a lienor timely forecloses its lien and during the lien foreclosure lawsuit the lien is transferred from the real property to a lien transfer bond.  Typically, if a lien foreclosure lawsuit is underway and the lien is transferred to a lien transfer bond, the lienor has one year from the date of the transfer to amend its lawsuit to sue the lien transfer bond.   Could the owner record a Notice of Contest of Lien to shorten the lienor’s statute of limitations to amend its lawsuit from one year from the date of the transfer to 60 days?

 

In a recent case, the Second District held that an owner could record a Notice of Contest of Lien AFTER the lienor filed its lien foreclosure lawsuit to shorten to limitations period for the lienor to amend its lawsuit to sue the lien transfer bond to 60 days.   In this case, because the lienor failed to amend its lawsuit within 60 days, the Second District held that the lienor lost its right to sue the lien transfer bond.  This means the lienor no longer gets to foreclose its lien (against the real property or the lien transfer bond) all because a Notice of Contest of Lien was recorded after the lien foreclosure lawsuit was filed and after the lien was transferred to the bond.  This case serves as a huge “W” for owners that appreciate the value of the Notice of Contest of Lien! See Hiller v. Phoenix Associates of South Florida, Inc., 41 Fla.L.Weekly D881d (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) (“It is undisputed Phoenix [lienor] took no action in this case within sixty days after Hiller [owner] transferred the lien to a bond and served the notice of contest.  It is this failure on the part of Phoenix that compels reversal in this case.  The fact that Phoenix had a proceeding pending against the lien at the same time of the transfer did not excuse compliance with the other provisions of Chapter 713 [Lien Law]).”)

 

Remember, there is oftentimes a strategic value recording a Notice of Contest of Lien  if you are dealing with a construction 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.

 

DON’T FORGET TO TIMELY FORECLOSE THE CONSTRUCITON LIEN IN COURT!

imagesKBDKQVLNA Notice of Contest of Lien under Florida Statute s. 713.22 is a vehicle that will shorten the statute of limitations for a lienor to foreclose on a recorded construction lien from one year to 60 days from the date the lien is contested.  A copy of a Notice of Contest of Lien is identified below.  An unwary lienor that fails to timely foreclose on its claim of lien in court will be deprived of its lien rights!

 

The recent decision in Snell v. Mott’s Contracting Services, Inc., 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1053a (Fla. 2d DCA), illustrates such an unwary lienor.  In this case, a contractor recorded a claim of lien on a residential project.  The owner then filed a lawsuit against the contractor and the contractor moved to dismiss or stay the action based on an arbitration provision in the contract.  The owner then filed a Notice of Contest of Lien to shorten the contractor’s statute of limitations to foreclose on the lien to 60 days.  The contractor, however, never moved to foreclose its lien in court; the court compelled the dispute to arbitration.

 

The contractor prevailed in arbitration and the arbitrator found that the contractor was the prevailing party under Florida Statute s. 713.29 that entitles a prevailing party in a lien action to its attorney’s fees (i.e., a party that prevails on the significant issues in the action).

 

However, the two issues on appeal were: (1) whether the contractor could be entitled to its attorney’s fees under s. 713.29 when it failed to timely foreclose on its lien in court after it received the Notice of Contest of Lien and (2) whether the arbitrator, absent express agreement of the parties, had authority to determine entitlement to attorney’s fees.

 

As it pertains to the first issue, the Second District found that because the contractor failed to comply with s. 713.22 by foreclosing on its lien in court within 60 days after the lien was contested, the contractor was not entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to s. 713.29.  Stated simpler, the contractor was not entitled to attorney’s fees because it no longer had lien rights since it failed to timely foreclose on its lien in court within 60 days after the lien was contested by the owner.

 

As it pertains to the second issue, the Second District found that an arbitrator has no authority / jurisdiction to determine a party’s entitlement to attorney’s fees unless the parties to the arbitration expressly waive the right to have a court determine entitlement.

 

This cases raises a few important points:

 

  • Even if there is an arbitration provision in a contract, it is still imperative that a lien foreclose action be filed in court!  File the lien action and simultaneously move to stay the lien foreclosure action pending the arbitration.

 

  • If you receive a Notice of Contest of Lien, do not forget that it operates to shorten the statute of limitations to foreclose on the lien to 60 days.  Otherwise, the lien will not be enforceable.

 

  • If you want an arbitrator to determine the entitlement to attorney’s fees, it is good practice to ensure that the parties to arbitration expressly agree to grant the arbitrator this authority and waive the court’s authority to determine entitlement.

 

 

NOTICE OF CONTEST OF LIEN

To: (Name and address of lienor)

You are notified that the undersigned contests the claim of lien filed by you on ___, (year) , and recorded in ___ Book ___, Page ___, of the public records of ___ County, Florida, and that the time within which you may file suit to enforce your lien is limited to 60 days from the date of service of this notice. This ___ day of ___, (year) .

Signed: (Owner or Attorney)

 

For more information on Notice of Contests of Lien, please see: http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/oh-no-a-lien-is-recorded-what-are-some-of-my-options/.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

OH NO! A LIEN IS RECORDED! WHAT ARE SOME OF MY OPTIONS?

Mechanics-LienYou are an owner and a construction lien is recorded on your property.  Or, you are a general contractor required to indemnify the owner for construction liens and a subcontractor you are in a dispute with records a construction lien (or one of the subcontractor’s suppliers or subcontractors records a lien).  What are your options (other than paying the lienor in consideration of a satisfaction of lien) to extinguish the lien or transfer that lien to another form of security other than the real property?

 

(1) Notice of Contest of Lien – This is an efficient, cost effective strategy that I oftentimes prefer to use to truly determine whether a lienor (entity that recorded lien) actually intends on foreclosing on the lien.  Recording a Notice of Contest of Lien pursuant to Florida Statute s. 713.22 shortens the statute of limitations to foreclose on the lien to 60 days after service of the Notice; if the lienor neglects to do so, the lien is extinguished.  (A construction lien is otherwise good for one year from its recording.)  Section 713.22 provides that an owner or an owner’s attorney can record a Notice of Contest of Lien in the official records (same official records where the lien is recorded).  The Notice is a statutory form (see form below).  Once it is recorded, the clerk serves it on the lienor at the address in the lien putting the lienor on notice that it must foreclose within 60 days.  Notably, because the statute says an owner or owner’s attorney should record this, if representing the general contractor, I typically suggest that the general contractor get the owner to sign the Notice (or, get the owner’s permission that it is acceptable for the general contractor to sign as a representative for purposes of the Notice).

 

(2) Filing a Lawsuit to Show Cause - Another approach to shorten a lienor’s statute of limitation to foreclose on the lien is to file a complaint pursuant to Florida Statute s. 713.21 where the clerk issues a special summons “to the lienor to show cause within 20 days why his or her lien should not be enforced by action or vacated and canceled of record.”  Fla. Stat. s. 713.21.   Any interested party can file this lawsuit and the lawsuit is typically accompanied with a fraudulent lien claim against the lienor.  When a lienor receives this lawsuit, it MUST foreclose on its lien within 20 days from service or else its lien should be discharged by the court.  However, this requires drafting of the lawsuit and the special show cause summons, filing the lawsuit, and serving the lawsuit, so it certainly is not as cost effective as the first option.  Also, sometimes, by the time the lawsuit is drafted, filed, and served, the 20 day show cause period would be pretty close to the expiration of the 60 days if the Notice of Contest of Lien was recorded.  Every situation is different and there are circumstances where filing this lawsuit is a more attractive option than recording the Notice of Contest of Lien.

 

(3) Transferring the Lien to Alternative Security such as a Lien Transfer Bond – Sometimes, an owner needs the lien off of its property immediately and wants the lien transferred from the real property to alternative security such as a lien transfer bond.  This is done pursuant to Florida Statute s. 713.24 where cash or a surety bond is posted with the court “in an amount equal to the amount demanded in such claim of lien, plus interest thereon at the legal rate for 3 years, plus $1,000 or 25 percent of the amount demanded in the claim of lien, whichever is greater, to apply on any attorney’s fees and court costs that may be taxed in any proceeding to enforce said lien.”  Fla.Stat. s. 713.24.   Typically, no one wants to post and tie up cash in the amount of the lien, plus 3 years of interest, plus another 25% of that lien amount to cover potential fees/costs.  And, obtaining a surety bond is not always easy without posting collateral or cash to the surety, etc., so that the surety’s risk in posting the bond in the event the lienor prevails is mitigated.  Now, a lien can be transferred to a lien transfer bond at any time including during the  pendency of a lawsuit.  For example, let’s say you elect option (1) or (2) above and the lienor does timely foreclose on the lien; the option of transferring the lien is still available.  The major difference is that if a lien foreclosure lawsuit is underway and the lien transferred to a bond (or cash), the lienor has one year from the date of the transfer to amend its lawsuit to assert a claim against the bond.  If the lien is transferred before the lien foreclosure lawsuit, then the one year to foreclose on the lien from the date the lien is recorded still applies.

 

An attorney should be consulted to assist you to determine the best option and strategy for you if a lien is recorded based on your circumstances.

 

NOTICE OF CONTEST OF LIEN

To: (Name and address of lienor)

You are notified that the undersigned contests the claim of lien filed by you on ___, (year) , and recorded in ___ Book ___, Page ___, of the public records of ___ County, Florida, and that the time within which you may file suit to enforce your lien is limited to 60 days from the date of service of this notice. This ___ day of ___, (year) .

Signed: (Owner or Attorney)

 

 

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.