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Understanding Florida construction liens

Florida contractors who work on a project only to face failure to pay have several remedies to get payment. A popular option is the construction lien, which allows contractors to file a lien on the improved real property, giving it the status of security.

Construction liens must comply with a variety of legal requirements. Contractors must take care to ensure proper filing, as failure to do so may lead to legal repercussions and a finding of fraudulent lien in some cases.

Lienable property

Contractors may only impose liens on private property as opposed to land owned by the city, site or federal entities.

Formal requirements and time limits

Filing a lien comes with several deadlines and filing requirements. These include recording the Claim of Lien within 90 days of the last day of the contractor's work and serving it on the owner within 15 days. You will then have one year to file for foreclosure on the lien unless the owner formally contests the lien, in which case you will have 60 days to proceed.

Lienable items

When claiming a lien, it is important to understand that your security interest in the property only extends to the value of the improvements you provided. Generally, a lienable item includes labor or material that creates a permanent benefit for the property and that is included in the contract.

Non-lienable expenses and losses

Various types of maintenance services, such as landscaping, may not qualify as permanent improvements. Removable structures may also fail to qualify for lienable status.

Sometimes, contractors spend money on items that do not include labor and materials, such as insurance, utilities and taxes. They count on the completed payment to reimburse them for these expenses. Contractors also lose money when they work on a project that ends up unpaid for, as they could have spent this time working for someone who would have paid. However, Florida courts generally do not allow contractors to place liens for amounts relating to these losses and expenses.

If you are having trouble getting payments for your work, an experienced construction attorney can give you more information as to your options and help you pursue the best strategy to recover what is due to you.

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