If you are an unpaid contractor in direct contract with the owner of real property, you should be serving a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit prior to foreclosing on your construction lien. This should extend to any trade contractor hired directly by the owner. As a matter of course, I recommend any lienor hired directly by the owner that wants to foreclose its lien to serve a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit. For example, if you are a plumbing contractor hired by the owner and want to foreclose your lien, serve the Affidavit. If you are a swimming pool contractor hired by the owner and want to foreclose your lien, serve the Affidavit. You get the point. (If you are not in direct contract with the owner, you do not need to serve the Affidavit, but you need to make sure you timely served your Notice to Owner; when you are in direct contract with the owner, you do not need to serve the Notice to Owner because the owner already knows you exist.)
The Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit is a statutory form. I suggest working with counsel to help execute to avoid any doubts with the information to include. The unpaid amount listed should correspond with the amount in your lien and you want to identify all unpaid lienors (your subcontractors and suppliers) and amounts you believe they are owed.
If you are in direct contract with the owner, serving the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit is a condition precedent to foreclosing your lien. To this point, Florida Statute s. 713.06(3)(d)(4) provides:
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.
In a recent case, A. Alexis Varela, Inc. d/b/a Varela Construction Group v. Pagio, 47 Fla. L. Weekly D1112b (Fla. 5th DCA 2022), the appeal was based on whether the contractor filed suit one day before it should have filed suit after serving the Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit. The Affidavit was served on 5/5/21. The contractor then filed its lien foreclosure lawsuit on 5/10/21. The trial could dismissed the lien action claiming the contractor did not properly comply with the 5-day condition precedent because the earliest it could have foreclosed its lien was 5/11/21. The appellate court reversed. The plain reading of the statue provides it should be delivered to the owner “at least 5 days before instituting an action.” The statute does not require the lien foreclosure lawsuit to be filed no earlier than the 6th day and does not specifically preclude the lawsuit from being filed on that 5th day.
Please contact David Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.lien