Filing a mechanics lien means you taken the proper steps to ensure that you get paid. But liens don’t last forever. And in many cases, a lien will be paid off before you actually need to enforce the claim. Once the claim expires or is paid, the property owner will typically ask you to remove your claim from their property. This article covers how to release or remove a Florida mechanics lien claim.
Florida lien release rules
Contractors and suppliers on a private construction project in Florida have the right to file a mechanics lien against the property if they aren’t paid. The laws governing mechanics liens in Florida, including the procedures to discharge them, can be found under Florida Statutes Chapter 713.
A mechanics lien has a shelf life — at some point the claim will no longer be enforceable. There are typically two reasons to remove a lien claim: either the mechanics lien has expired, or you have been paid (i.e. the lien claim has been satisfied).
Mechanics lien expiration
Typically, a Florida mechanics lien is only valid for one year after the filing of the claim. If no action is taken within that time frame, the claim will expire and no longer be enforceable. If this occurs, the property owner will often request (or demand) that the contractor file a lien release.
The contractor can extend the deadline with a lien amendment
A Florida mechanics lien enforcement deadline is fairly strict. However, there are limited circumstances where a filed lien claim can be valid for longer than one year.
If, after filing, the contractor performs additional work on the project, then they may file an amendment to the lien claim to add the additional value of services that went unpaid. Under this scenario, the one-year clock will run from when the amendment was filed.
The property owner can shorten the deadline
Yes. Under Florida lien law, there are two tactics a property owner can take to shorten this timeframe. The first is referred to as a Notice of Contest of Lien. If filed, once the lien claimant is served with a copy of the notice, the lien must be released or foreclosed upon within 60 days.
The second, and more drastic measure, is to File an Action to Show Cause. If filed, the lien claimant will need to either enforce their claim or show good cause why the claim hasn’t been enforced yet. And they only have 20 days to do so!
Paid in full
Lastly, if you’ve been paid in full, congratulations! The lien process worked for you, and the owner is ready to pay. However, you’ll still need to release your claim.
How to release a mechanics lien in Florida
Florida’s lien law doesn’t specify exactly when a lien needs to be released, or assign any penalties for failing to release it. But there can still be significant consequences to a contractor if they do not properly file a release of lien.
Property owners will still demand the removal of the lien, particularly if they have paid the claim or it has expired. Even an expired mechanics lien can cause headaches for the owner — and legal trouble for the contractor. For example, if interferes with the sale of the property, the owner may be able to come after the contractor for actual damages.
Generally, it’s just good business practice to release a lien claim after it’s been paid.
Fill out a Florida Discharge of Lien Form
First and foremost, releasing a lien requires the right form. There’s nothing particularly unique about the form, but it must contain all of the required information to effectively release the claim.
Also, the document will need to be in the proper formatting that will be accepted by the recorder’s office. You can download a free Florida Discharge of Lien form here.
Get the form
Download a Florida Discharge of Lien form, also known as a lien release. This form was prepared by construction attorneys to meet the statutory requirements.
Information that must be included
As far as what information needs to be provided, it’s fairly straightforward. Here’s all that needs to be included in your Florida lien release form:
- Property description & address
- Claimant’s information
- Property owner’s information
- Lien filing information
- Date of recording
- County where the lien was recorded
- Recording numbers (i.e. book, page, instrument #)
- Reason for releasing the claim
- Satisfied (paid in full)
- Enforcement action was not timely filed
- Signed & notarized
Filing your Florida lien release
The actual filing of the lien release is no different than the filing any other document. You’ll need to be sure that the release is being filed in the same county recorder’s office where the initial lien claim was filed. View a list of all Florida county recorder offices with contact information and filing requirements.
Once you’ve filed the release, it’s a good idea to send a copy of the recorded form to the property owner as well. That way they know the claim has been discharged.
Florida property owners can also remove a lien
If a contractor has filed a mechanics lien on their property, owners don’t necessarily have to wait for the claimant to file a lien release. They can also transfer the lien away from the property and onto a bond, in a process known as bonding off a mechanics lien. Florida’s construction lien law provides for this option under § 713.24.
Bonding off or around a mechanics lien is not necessarily a simple or inexpensive process, so it’s not extremely common. In the event that it does happen, contractors don’t need to be afraid of a lien release bond, since it can still provide a strong avenue for them to get paid.
As mentioned before, property owners can cancel a lien by filing a complaint that requires the contractor to show cause why their claim shouldn’t be enforced or canceled. If the claimant fails to respond properly, the lien will be removed via court action.
Contractor concerns when releasing a lien claim
Releasing a lien claim is no small matter. If the deadline to file has passed, and you release your claim, there are no do-overs. Only in the rarest of circumstances will the court allow a claimant to reinstate their claim; typically for reasons such as fraud or undue influence.
One common question we get all the time is, should I release a lien before I get paid? This is ultimately a business decision, and mostly depends on your relationship with the paying party. For a full discussion of this issue, read The Lien Release Timeline is Tricky.
However, a good rule of thumb is, don’t release your claim until you’ve been paid. Getting paid doesn’t mean having a payment schedule (you can’t pay your bills with a schedule) or a check in hand (it might not clear). Getting paid means the money is in the bank!