TERMINATING NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT WITHOUT CONTRACTOR’S FINAL PAYMENT AFFIDAVIT

shutterstock_399902515Prior to construction work being performed on your property, a Notice of Commencement should be recorded.  Among other things, construction liens will relate back in time to an effective Notice of Commencement (meaning it has not expired).  For this reason, lenders or others will want the Notice of Commencement to be terminated when the job is complete by recording in the official records a Notice of Termination of the Notice of Commencement.  There is a statutory procedure to terminate a Notice of Commencement pursuant to Florida Statute 713.132.  

 

Frequently, a clerk will want the Notice of Termination of the Notice of Commencement to be accompanied with a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit because 713.132 says, in material part:

 

(2) An owner has the right to rely on a contractor’s affidavit given under s. 713.06(3)(d), except with respect to lienors who have already given notice, in connection with the execution, swearing to, and recording of a notice of termination. However, the notice of termination must be accompanied by the contractor’s affidavit.

 

Notwithstanding, the Fifth District in Lasalle Bank National Ass’n v. Blackton, Inc., 59 So.3d 329, 331 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011) in interpreting this subsection stated:

 

We interpret this subsection to grant an owner the right to rely on the a contractor’s affidavit as an alternative to giving a sworn statement in its notice of termination that “all tenors have been paid in full.”  Here, the contractor’s affidavit attached to the notice of termination was superfluous because Independence, as owner, had already averred in the notice of termination that all tenors had been fully paid. 

 

 

It is always beneficial for an owner to obtain and rely on the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit since the contractor would be the one to hire the subcontractors  and know whether all lienors (including itself) have been fully paid and, if not, those that are still owed money.  However, there are times an owner may not be able to get that affidavit for a host of reasons (for example, if the job never actually commenced or the contractor is uncooperative in this regard).   In these circumstances, the owner should be able to record the Notice of Termination of the Notice of Commencement absent the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit by averring in the Notice of Termination that all lienors have been paid.

 

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.

TERMINATING THE NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT (WITH A NOTICE OF TERMINATION)

shutterstock_259385300The notice of commencement is important for purposes of construction lien priority.   Stock Bldg. Supply of Florida, Inc. v. Soares Da Costa Const. Services, LLC, 76 So.3d 313, 317 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011) (“[A] notice of commencement serves to determine the priority of liens under the Construction Lien Law.”).   A lien relates back in time to the date the notice of commencement was recorded assuming the notice of commencement is still in effect when the lien is recorded (or an amended noticed of commencement is recorded).  Lien priority is very important and the reason why a contractor should always want to ensure there is an effective notice of commencement in place rather than an expired notice of commencement.

 

For the same reasons why a contractor wants to ensure there is an effective notice of commencement, there are times an owner wants to terminate a notice of commencement.  An owner may want to terminate the potential priority of a construction lien.  For instance, say the owner is refinancing or obtaining a construction loan in the midst of construction.  A lender will want to ensure its mortgage maintains first priority and certainly priority over a potential construction lien.  Otherwise, why would a lender finance the construction if it does not maintain first priority. It generally will not.  Thus, an owner needs to terminate the notice of commencement so that the closing occurs on the loan and the mortgage recorded before a new notice of commencement is recorded and construction continues.

 

Florida Statute s. 713.132 allows an owner to statutorily terminate the effectiveness of a notice of commencement by recording a notice of termination.  It is a statutory procedure that must be followed and it is important that an owner and contractor seek the assistance of counsel in following this procedure.  The statute contains in relevant part:

 

(3) An owner may not record a notice of termination except after completion of construction, or after construction ceases before completion and all lienors have been paid in full or pro rata in accordance with s. 713.06(4). If an owner or a contractor, by fraud or collusion, knowingly makes any fraudulent statement or affidavit in a notice of termination or any accompanying affidavit, the owner and the contractor, or either of them, as the case may be, is liable to any lienor who suffers damages as a result of the filing of the fraudulent notice of termination; and any such lienor has a right of action for damages occasioned thereby.

 

(4) A notice of termination is effective to terminate the notice of commencement at the later of 30 days after recording of the notice of termination or the date stated in the notice of termination as the date on which the notice of commencement is terminated, if the notice of termination has been served pursuant to paragraph (1)(f) on the contractor and on each lienor who has a direct contract with the owner or who has served a notice to owner.

 

If a notice of termination of a notice of commencement is recorded as a result of the cessation of construction, a new notice of commencement must be recorded before completion of the improvement may be recommenced.”  Stock Bldg. Supply of Florida, 76 So.3d at 317-18.    

 

From a lienor’s perspective, it is important that they understand that when a new notice of commencement is recorded, the lienor must re-serve any required notices to preserve lien or bond rights (such as a notice to owner or notice of intent to look to the contractor’s bond).  Stock Bldg. Supply of Florida, 76 So.3d at 318 (when owner recorded new notice of commencement, the project began anew and lienor was required to re-serve notices under Florida’s Construction Lien Law).

 

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.

 

PROPERLY TERMINATING A NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT

unknownIn prior postings I have discussed the importance of the notice of commencement, particularly when it comes to notifying lienors of applicable information regarding their construction lien or payment bond rights and the priority of construction liens.

 

In certain circumstances, it may be in an owner’s best interest to terminate the effectiveness of the notice of commencement by recording a notice of termination of the notice of commencement.   This is governed by Florida Statute s. 713.132 set forth at the bottom of this article.

 

An owner cannot record a notice of termination of the notice of commencement as a “gotcha” tactic simply because it does not want to pay lienors or wants to lessen the value of potential liens by impacting the priority of those liens.  If this were the case, owners may regularly try to employ this tactic as a means to reduce payment obligations or pay cents on the dollar (since a construction lien is only as good as the priority of that lien and the equity in the real property).   To this point, s. 713.132(3) specifies those occasions when an owner can record a notice of termination of a notice of commencement:

 

An owner may not record a notice of termination except after completion of construction, or after construction ceases before completion and all lienors have been paid in full or pro rata in accordance with s. 713.06(4). If an owner or a contractor, by fraud or collusion, knowingly makes any fraudulent statement or affidavit in a notice of termination or any accompanying affidavit, the owner and the contractor, or either of them, as the case may be, is liable to any lienor who suffers damages as a result of the filing of the fraudulent notice of termination; and any such lienor has a right of action for damages occasioned thereby.

 

In a nutshell, an owner may terminate the notice of commencement by:

 

  1. Recording a notice of termination that references the OR BK and PG of the notice of commencement and contains the same information in the notice of commencement;
  2. Identifying the date in the notice of termination that the notice of commencement will be terminated, but the termination cannot be less than 30 days after the notice of termination is recorded (meaning the notice of commencement will NOT be terminated until at least 30 days after it is recorded);
  3. Stating that ALL lienors have been paid in full;
  4. Stating that before recording the notice of termination of the notice of commencement, the owner served a copy of the notice of termination on its contractor, anyone directly hired by the owner, and on anyone that served a notice to owner UNLESS the owner received a final waiver and release of lien upon final payment from that lienor; and
  5. Including the contractor’s payment affidavit identifying the amount it is owed and that it owes lienors, which the owner can rely on in preparing the notice of termination. 

 

Once the notice of termination of the notice of commencement is recorded, construction liens recorded after the termination will NOT relate back to the notice of commencement (thus, impacting the priority of the liens).  This is why it is important to record any construction lien within 30 days once you receive a notice of termination of the notice of commencement if you have NOT been paid in full or there is a payment dispute.

 

For example, in Lasalle Bank National Association v. Blackton, Inc., 9 So.3d 329 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011), the home-builder recoded a notice of termination of the notice of commencement that terminated the notice of commencement 30 days from its recording.  Attached to the notice of termination was the homebuilder’s payment affidavit.  There were no liens within this 30-day window.   After homeowners moved into the house and their mortgage was recorded, they notified the homebuilder of certain defects/warranty items, and the homebuilder engaged a new subcontractor to fix the defects/warranty items.  The subcontractor was not paid and recorded a lien.  The issue was whether the subcontractor’s lien related back to the notice of commencement and took priority over the homeowners’ mortgage.   The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the mortgage had priority since the notice of commencement was terminated and the lien was recorded after the notice of commencement had been terminated.  This meant the lien was inferior to the mortgage

 

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.