FILLING OUT THE CONTRACTOR’S FINAL PAYMENT AFFIDAVIT

When preparing a contractor’s final payment affidavit, I always suggest for a contractor (or anyone in privity of contract with the owner) to identify the undisputed amounts their accounting reflects is owed to ALL subcontractors, etc., regardless of whether that entity preserved their lien rights.  If the contractor provided a payment bond, I footnote this simply to support that none of the lower-tiered subcontractors have lien rights or are the traditional “lienor.”   (Thus, there is no prejudice to the owner if an entity is inadvertently omitted from the affidavit.)

There are times, however, where a contractor does not identify a subcontractor that did not serve a notice to owner and, therefore, has no valid lien rights.  Or, a contractor omits a lienor that actually did serve a notice to owner and preserve its lien rights; this happens.

There was an older First District Court of Appeals case that harshly (and, quite, unfairly) held that the contractor must identify everyone in the final payment affidavit regardless of whether that entity timely served a notice to owner or their lien is invalid.  This case, however, predated, a 1998 statutory change to Florida’s Lien Law.

Today, the statute (in Florida Statute s. 713.06) currently provides:

(d) When the final payment under a direct contract becomes due the contractor:

1. The contractor shall give to the owner a final payment affidavit stating, if that be the fact, that all lienors under his or her direct contract who have timely served a notice to owner on the owner and the contractor have been paid in full or, if the fact be otherwise, showing the name of each such lienor who has not been paid in full and the amount due or to become due each for labor, services, or materials furnished….

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.

Fla. Stat. s. 713.06(d)(1).

The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Fetta v. All-Rite Paving Contractors, Inc., 50 So.3d 1216 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), claimed that the purpose of the statute is for the contractor to identify all lienors who have timely served a notice to owner that has not been paid in full.  (Hence, you do not need to identify those that did not timely serve a notice to owner even though, from a practical standpoint, identifying all makes sense as a just-in-case.). Further, even if there was an omission, that would not render a lien invalid unless the owner can prove prejudice and prejudice is not so easy to prove.

When in doubt, consult counsel when finalizing or filling out a contractor’s final payment affidavit.  Rights can be preserved and items footnoted as appropriate for clarification purposes, such as the fact that the amount in the affidavit may not include amounts that are not available under the lien law (i.e., delay damages).

 

 

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: DON’T FORGET TO SERVE THE CONTRACTOR FINAL PAYMENT AFFIDAVIT

If you are a contractor in DIRECT CONTRACT with an owner, serve a contractor final payment affidavit on the owner, as a matter of course, and without any undue delay, particularly if you are owed money and have recorded a construction lien.  In numerous circumstances, I like to serve the contractor final payment affidavit with the construction lien.

 

The contractor final payment affidavit is not a meaningless form.  It is a statutory form (set forth in Florida Statute s. 713.06) required to be filled out by a lienor in direct privity of contract with an owner and served on the owner at least 5 days prior to the lienor foreclosing its construction lien.  The contractor final payment affidavit serves as a condition precedent to foreclosing a construction lien.  Failure to timely serve a contractor final payment affidavit should result in a dismissal of the lien foreclosure lawsuit, presumably by the owner moving for a motion for summary judgment.  This should not occur.  

 

I always suggest working with a lawyer to finalize a contractor final payment affidavit (as well as the lien in order to utilize the advice of counsel defense) for two reasons.  First, you will ideally want the amount in the affidavit to be the same as the lien amount.  Second, you may want to include certain clarifications or exceptions in the final payment affidavit for amounts not included in the lien (e.g., delay-type damages or certain disputed change orders that you do not feel comfortable including in the 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.

OWNER REQUESTING PROGRESS PAYMENT AFFIDAVITS FROM CONTRACTOR

imagesFlorida’s Lien Law provides an owner, in particular, an infrequently used tool to take advantage of before making a progress payment to a contractor.

 

Previously, I talked about a contractor’s requirement to furnish the owner with a final payment affidavit before foreclosing on its construction lien.

 

But, an owner can request for a contractor to serve a progress payment affidavit before making a progress payment to a contractor.  The owner, however, seldom requests this progress payment affidavit before making a progress payment.

 

Florida Statute s. 713.06(3)(c) provides:

 

(c) When any payment becomes due to the contractor on the direct contract, except the final payment:

1. The owner shall pay or cause to be paid, within the limitations imposed by subparagraph 2., the sum then due to each lienor giving notice prior to the time of the payment. The owner may require, and, in such event, the contractor shall furnish as a prerequisite to requiring payment to himself or herself, an affidavit as prescribed in subparagraph (d)1., on any payment made, or to be made, on a direct contract, but the furnishing of the affidavit shall not relieve the owner of his or her responsibility to pay or cause to be paid all lienors giving notice. The owner shall be under no obligation to any lienor, except laborers, from whom he or she has not received a notice to owner at the time of making a payment.

2. When the payment due is insufficient to pay all bills of lienors giving notice, the owner shall prorate the amount then due under the direct contract among the lienors giving notice pro rata in the manner prescribed in subsection (4). Lienors receiving money shall execute partial releases, as provided in s. 713.20(2), to the extent of the payment received.

3. If any affidavit permitted hereunder recites any outstanding bills for labor, services, or materials, the owner may pay the bills in full direct to the person or firm to which they are due if the balance due on the direct contract at the time the affidavit is given is sufficient to pay the bills and shall deduct the amounts so paid from the balance of payment due the contractor. This subparagraph shall not create any obligation of the owner to pay any person who is not a lienor giving notice.

4. No person furnishing labor or material, or both, who is required to serve a notice under paragraph (2)(a) and who did not serve the notice and whose time for service has expired shall be entitled to be paid by the owner because he or she is listed in an affidavit furnished by the contractor under subparagraph (c)1.

 

One reason an owner should want to comply with these provisions in Florida’s Lien Law and request a progress payment affidavit is to safeguard what is known as the proper payments defense.  Under the proper payments defense, an owner will not be liable for construction liens that exceed the owner’s contract price with its contractor.  See Continental Concrete, Inc. v. Lakes at La Paz III Ltd. Partnership, 758 So.2d 1214 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014) (“The [proper] payment defense provides that where an owner fulfills all the duties the Mechanics’ Lien Law places upon him, his liability for all mechanics’ lien claims cannot exceed the contract price.”) (internal citation omitted).  But, for the proper payments defense to apply, an owner is required to comply with the requirements of Florida’s Lien Law. An owner makes proper payments by obtaining progress payment affidavits in consideration of each progress payment made to the contractor (and a final payment affidavit in consideration of the final payment) and by getting progress / partial lien wavers and releases from the contractor and subcontractors and suppliers that preserved their lien rights (and a final lien waiver / release in consideration of final payment).

 

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.