Construction Law Punta Gorda and all of Charlotte County. As a litigator for construction law Punta Gorda and all of Charlotte County, one of the worst parts of my job is telling a client their lien is unenforceable. In order to have a valid lien on a construction project, there are very important requirements which must first be fulfilled. If you are a Contractor or Subcontractor and you fail to meet just one requirement, you could end up performing work amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars without having a valid lien to guarantee your payment. Perfecting a valid lien is your best guarantee on any construction project, so protect yourself – be sure to follow each step of the lien law in order to preserve your rights, or have an attorney assist you with perfecting your lien rights on each project.
Today I specifically want to discuss the subcontractor’s requirement of providing a Notice to Owner. This is a statutory requirement in Florida’s Lien Law under F.S. 713.06. In short, if you are working on a construction project and you don’t have a direct contract with the owner of that property (instead, you were hired by the General Contractor), you must provide a Notice to Owner to the owner of that property in order to preserve your right to later record a Claim of Lien. This Notice to Owner must be sent within 45 days of the Subcontractor’s first day of work. The form for the Notice to Owner is provided within Florida’s Lien Law statute 713.06, and I strongly recommend that my clients use the statutory form. The most common mistakes made by Subcontractors are sending out the Notice to Owner to someone who is not the actual owner of the property where the work is being performed, or mistakenly believing they have a direct contract with the property owner (when in fact their contract is with a General Contractor), and therefore don’t send a Notice to Owner to the actual property owner. With regard to the second most common mistaken, my advice is simple: ALWAYS send out a Notice to Owner to the actual property owner. Make no exceptions.
With regard to sending out a Notice to Owner to someone other than the owner, believe it or not, this happens regularly. How? A common situation exists when the person you think owns the property actually owns the property through a corporation or partnership. So you might sign a contract with “Johnny Contractor” to provide all the plumbing at Johnny’s new building, but it turns out that new building is actually owned by “Johnny Contractor Corporation of Florida LLC”, of which there are 4 different members and stock holders. If you don’t provide a Notice to Owner to “Johnny Contractor Corporation of Florida LLC”, the actual property owner, within 45 days of your first day of work, you might not be able to record a valid lien on that project at its conclusion if the property owner refuses to pay you for your work. A relatively famous Florida case decided on this exact issue is interesting to read: C.L Whiteside and Associates Construction Co., Inc., v The Landings Joint Venture, 626 So.2d 1051 (Fla 4th DCA 1993). At this point you might think to yourself “but wait a minute, Johnny knows I have been working here because I talk to him every day and all of my work is perfect!”. This likely will not matter under Florida’s Lien Law in regards to construction law Punta Gorda and all of Charlotte County.
Again, please protect yourself when it comes to construction law Punta Gorda and all of Charlotte County! Remember that Florida’s Lien Law exists to make sure Contractors and Subcontractors get paid for their properly done work. However, in order to be able to use Florida’s Lien Law to your advantage, you must always follow its requirements to the letter. Always send out a Notice to Owner on every project to the actual legal owner of the property within 45 days of your first day of work. If you do not want the burden or responsibility of this chore on each job that you perform, an attorney can assist and handle it for you.