If you’ve been working on a construction project in Florida, and have yet to be paid, then filing a mechanics lien might be the answer you’re looking for. Florida grants lien right protection to most project participants. However, there is a list of exceptions such as sub-sub-subcontractors, suppliers to suppliers, or anyone who is required to be licensed in Florida, but isn’t.
Filing a mechanics lien claim is a simple concept in Florida, but there are many pitfalls, deadlines, and errors that the claimant should look out for. The Florida rules are extremely detailed and comprehensive. Contractors and material suppliers need to be really careful to follow every step to make sure their Florida lien is filed correctly. This guide is meant to provide a full explanation of how to file a Florida mechanics lien, and get it right.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Getting started with your Florida mechanics lien form
The obvious first step is to prepare the mechanic’s lien claim form. But remember, there are still preliminary notice and other requirements before you can file a lien claim. Once these have been met, it’s time to start preparing your claim. Filling out a form seems simple enough, but Florida has very specific requirements that must be met, or the claim will be invalid. Let’s take a look at how to get this form filled out correctly.
A) Be sure to use the right form
First and foremost, you need to be sure you are using the right form. Florida is fairly strict when it comes to mechanics liens. The filing will not be valid unless the document is in the proper format, and filled out correctly. There are many free forms available on the internet, but these aren’t always valid, reliable, or even accurate.
Levelset forms are created and reviewed by construction attorneys and payment experts; thousands of Florida contractors and suppliers have successfully used these forms to get paid.
B) Filling out the claim correctly
It’s time to get the claim of lien document filled out. The specific requirements are spelled out in Fla. Stat. §713.08. This section of this guide will review all the requirements necessary to fill out the lien claim form properly.
1. Your information
This one is pretty easy, but can be messed up. Add your full name and current address to this section. If you are filing on behalf of a company, be sure to use the full legal company name, i.e., ABC Contractors, LLC. You don’t want to have a valid lien claim be challenged simply because you made a mistake filling out your own company’s information.
2. Identify who hired you
This section is looking for the name of the person with whom you contracted with on the project. Just to clarify this is the name of your customer, and the relevant information should be found in your contract. Include their name and contact information. In some circumstances, this may be the same person as the owner. If so, throw their info down here, and repeat the same under the owner section.
3. Statement of labor, services, and materials provided
This section is looking for a description of the labor, services, and materials that you provided to the construction project. A general statement describing what you’ve contributed will suffice, and it should be coupled with the contract price or the estimated value of what you provided.
If, however, you specially fabricated materials that weren’t ultimately incorporated into the property, these should be listed separately along with their value as well.
4. Description of the property
This doesn’t necessarily mean a full, legal description of the property. The statute merely requires that you provide a description sufficient enough for the identification of the property. In most cases, a simple, physical street address should be enough. But, if the project is new construction, it may not have a defined street address yet. In these cases, it’s best to do a bit of research to find the parcel or lot number associated with the property.
You can get more help by downloading our free Legal Property Description Cheat Sheet.
5. Name of the owner
This may seem pretty straightforward, but it can be more complicated than you’d think. There can still be all sorts of challenges when trying to identify the property owner. There could be multiple joint owners; in that case, list them all. The improvement may have been commissioned by a tenant, instead of the owner. In that case, list both names if possible. If the property changed ownership, there might be some research involved.
And lastly, working on apartment and condominium complexes can present several issues and is a frequent topic of discussion in our Ask an Expert Center: Does a lien need to be placed on all units in a condo association? & How do I file a lien against a Condo Assn for work performed in common areas?
6. Lien amount
The amount of any and all unpaid invoices and change orders should be included in this section. And, unlike other states, Florida allows unpaid finance charges to be included in the lien amount. That’s it! This shouldn’t include any extraneous amounts for anything that didn’t specifically contribute to the permanent improvement of the property. “Extraneous amounts” would include any collection costs or attorneys fees.
7. Proof of service
Since the state of Florida requires a Notice to Owner, in order to have valid lien rights, the lien claim must include this information. You should fill in the date the notice was provided, and the delivery method of said notice. Which is why it’s so important to have a return receipt requested anytime you send a notice on a project.
8. Statutory warning
Under the Florida mechanics lien laws, the following warning must be included in order to be valid and enforceable:
THIS LEGAL DOCUMENT REFLECTS THAT A CONSTRUCTION LIEN HAS BEEN PLACED ON THE REAL PROPERTY LISTED HEREIN. UNLESS THE OWNER OF SUCH PROPERTY TAKES ACTION TO SHORTEN THE TIME PERIOD, THIS LIEN MAY REMAIN VALID FOR ONE YEAR FROM THE DATE OF RECORDING, AND SHALL EXPIRE AND BECOME NULL AND VOID THEREAFTER UNLESS LEGAL PROCEEDINGS HAVE BEEN COMMENCED TO FORECLOSE OR TO DISCHARGE THIS LIEN.
9. Signature and notarization
Lastly, its time to sign that mechanics lien claim. Additionally, the state of Florida requires that the lien claim also be notarized. Failure to do so will result in the lien claim being rejected.
Step 2: Serve a copy of the lien to the owner
You are almost ready to file your Florida mechanics lien. However, before you go down to the county recorder’s office, it’s important to make sure that you serve a copy of the lien to the owner. This can be done before you file your claim, or within 15 days after recording. So why is this step 2 instead of 3? Well, best practice? Send a copy either before filing or on the same date as filing. You don’t want to miss that 15-day service deadline if you do the owner will have the ability to invalidate the lien claim.
Service of the claim can be provided in one of three ways.
- Service can be made by actual delivery to the owner, or owners. If the owner is a business entity (i.e., corporation, partnership, or LLC) than service on a partner, officer, manager, or business agent will be sufficient.
- The claimant may also send notice by registered, Global Express Guaranteed, certified mail with postage or shipping paid by the sender as long as there is some proof of delivery. In Florida, the notice is considered sent as of the date of mailing.
- Lastly, if neither of the above options for can be achieved, then the posting of the notice on the job site will suffice.
Step 3: Filing the lien claim with the right county recorder’s office
If you’ve followed the first two steps, you should be ready to file your lien claim. It’s important to be prepared; because there are several different reasons a mechanics lien can be rejected; like:
- Wrong lien claim formatting
- Improper filing fees
- Filing in the wrong county or office
- Missing the lien claim deadline
- Showing up to the office without the proper paperwork
A) When can you file a Florida mechanics lien?
The magic number is 90! Lien claims can be recorded at any time during the construction project or within 90 days after the last day you furnished labor or materials to the property. If, however, you were terminated prior to completing the work, then the claim may be filed within 90 days of termination, or 90 days from the last day of furnishing labor or materials; whichever occurs first.
Don’t miss your deadline! Florida is particularly strict about their deadlines; we even wrote a whole article about it: No Lien-iency for Florida Lien Deadlines. Also, if your deadline lands on a government holiday or the weekend; the deadline will be the at the close of business hours of the following day.
A) In which Florida county office should you record your lien?
Keep in mind that the claim must be filed in the county where the property is located. According to §28.22 of the Florida Statutes, the clerk of the court is the recorder of all documents required to be legally recorded in the county. But, if the property is situated in more than one county, the claim should be recorded in the clerk’s office of each county.
Each county may have different form requirements or filing fees. It’s important to do your research beforehand by contacting the clerk’s office yourself and asking them the pertinent questions. In an effort to facilitate this process, we’ve put together a list of every county clerk’s office along with links to their websites:
- Alachua County Lien Filing
- Baker County Lien Filing
- Bay County Lien Filing
- Bradford County Lien Filing
- Brevard County Lien Filing
- Broward County Lien Filing
- Calhoun County Lien Filing
- Charlotte County Lien Filing
- Citrus County Lien Filing
- Clay County Lien Filing
- Collier County Lien Filing
- Columbia County Lien Filing
- DeSoto County Lien Filing
- Dixie County Lien Filing
- Duval County Lien Filing
- Escambia County Lien Filing
- Flagler County Lien Filing
- Franklin County Lien Filing
- Gadsen County Lien Filing
- Gilchrist County Lien Filing
- Glades County Lien Filing
- Gulf County Lien Filing
- Hamilton County Lien Filing
- Hardee County Lien Filing
- Hendry County Lien Filing
- Hernando County Lien Filing
- Highlands County Lien Filing
- Hillsborough County Lien Filing
- Holmes County Lien Filing
- Indian River County Lien Filing
- Jackson County Lien Filing
- Jefferson County Lien Filing
- LaFayette County Lien Filing
- Lake County Lien Filing
- Lee County Lien Filing
- Leon County Lien Filing
- Levy County Lien Filing
- Liberty County Lien Filing
- Madison County Lien Filing
- Manatee County Lien Filing
- Marion County Lien Filing
- Martin County Lien Filing
- Miami-Dade County Lien Filing)
- Monroe County Lien Filing
- Nassau County Lien Filing
- Okaloosa County Lien Filing
- OkeechobeeCounty Lien Filing
- Orange County Lien Filing
- Osceola County Lien Filing
- Palm Beach County Lien Filing
- Pasco County Lien Filing
- Pinellas County Lien Filing
- Polk County Lien Filing
- Putnam County Lien Filing
- Santa Rosa County Lien Filing
- Sarasota County Lien Filing
- Seminole County Lien Filing
- St. Johns County Lien Filing
- St. Lucie County Lien Filing
- Sumter County Lien Filing
- Suwanee County Lien Filing
- Taylor County Lien Filing
- Union County Lien Filing
- Volusia County Lien Filing
- Wakulla County Lien Filing
- Walton County Lien Filing
- Washington County Lien Filing
B) What to send or bring with you to the Florida county clerk’s office?
Here is a breakdown of what you’ll need to bring or include in your lien claim to make the process as quick and painless as possible.
- 2 original copies of the lien claim, one of which will be recorded, and the second copy is in case you decide to request a certified copy. This is an extra $3, but well worth it to have a copy for your own records. If you are mailing your lien claim, include a self-addressed envelope with postage included.
- Bring the proper method of payment. Cash or credit cards are accepted, but only in person. If mailing the lien claim, you must bring with you a cashier’s check or money order. This is important to note. Since they don’t accept personal or company checks, be sure you have calculated the proper filing fee for your county. Although there is some variation, the average filing fee is usually around $10 for the first page and $8.50 for any additional pages.
C) Should you file in person, by mail, or electronically?
The best bet to ensure the lien gets delivered and recorded in a timely fashion is to go down the clerk’s office yourself. Even though this is a hassle, this is the best way to be able to counter any deficiencies or mistakes quickly. If you consider the thought of going to the office and waiting in line is too much to bear, there is always the option of hiring a courier to record it for you. When filed in person, the document is considered recorded that day if filed early enough.
Electronic recording is also an option. The majority of counties in Florida do allow for the electronic recording of lien claims, through third-party vendors such as Simplifile, Inc. Any claim filed electronically will also be officially recorded that day if filed early enough.
Lastly, you can mail in your lien claim. Filing a lien through the mail is effective but risky. Any mistakes, either on the document itself, or miscalculating filing fees, can result in rejection and delayed filing. Furthermore, it just takes longer. Depending on the circumstances and back-log, it can take up to several weeks for the claim to actually be recorded.
Once you have your stamped, certified copy in hand, you’re good to go! You have officially filed your mechanics lien claim and are one step closer to getting paid what you’ve earned.
What to do after filing a Florida mechanics lien?
A Florida mechanics lien is only effective for one year after the lien was recorded. After one year, if some action hasn’t been taken (such as foreclosure, amendment, or release), then the lien will expire and become void and unenforceable. There is one of three actions that you should take before the enforcement deadline rears its ugly head.
A) Foreclosing/enforcing your lien
The time to foreclose on your lien claim is within 1 year after filing the claim. If the deadline is steadily approaching, and there is no indication that you will be getting paid, it may be time to bring an action to enforce the lien. Even if you file a lawsuit on the day before the deadline, you’ll be fine. Once the action is filed, the lien will remain valid until the end of the legal proceedings.
If successful, the lien will convert into a permanent judgment lien, and you’ll have the ability to foreclose on the property to sell it off and collect your unpaid debt. A lawsuit to enforce a lien claim is still a lawsuit. You can hire a construction attorney to take care of all of this for you. Attorney fees may be awarded to the prevailing party in a successful foreclosure action, but this is only awarded sometimes.
Keep in mind that owners have the ability to shorten the deadline to foreclose. This is known as a Notice of Contest of Lien. If the owner files this notice, the time limit is reduced to only 60 days.
B) Amending the lien claim
If, after filing the lien claim, you have provided additional labor or materials to the project, you may file an amended lien claim. This amended claim should include the additional unpaid amounts and note the alternate last day of furnishing labor or materials and should be filed in the same manner as the initial lien claim. The one-year deadline will then be calculated from the date the amended lien claim was filed.
C) Releasing the lien claim
If you are ultimately paid before the deadline expires, congratulations! But, you may be required to file a Discharge of Mechanics Lien. The process of which is a simplified version of the lien filing requirements. Once executed, this lien claim cannot be revived or re-enforced.
That’s about it. Now you should know the ins and outs of how to file a Florida mechanics lien. If you have any other questions regarding Florida mechanics liens feel free to post in our Ask an Expert Center.