Exterior of the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street hotel

Seven contractors who constructed the $200 million-plus, 27-story JW Marriott Tampa Water Street in Florida are now seeking over $23 million in unpaid work on the hotel — the 100th JW Marriott property to be opened worldwide by hotel tycoon Marriott International.

According to the Hillsborough County clerk’s office, project general contractor Coastal Construction of Tampa is owed $18 million as of February 26, 2021 for constructing the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street hotel, located at 510 Water Street, Tampa, FL.

The remaining six subcontractors have all filed unpaid construction work claims — also known as mechanics liens — against the GC, which now owes a combined $5,123,526.10 to the claimants. 

A request for comment was left with Daniel Whiteman, vice chairman of Coastal Construction of Tampa, which has not been responded to at the time of reporting. 

Mechanics liens are filed by unpaid contractors to gain a security interest in real property upon a lack of payment — which ultimately helps force payment up the project’s payment chain. While the lien claim is active against the property title, it can prevent the property owner from selling or refinancing. 

In total, the seven mechanics lien claims are valued at a combined $23,215,559.40 and were filed between February 10 and March 17, 2021. 

According to Coastal Construction of Tampa’s mechanics lien filing, the GC is out $18,092,033.28 after agreeing to a contract worth $213.7 million with property owner Water Street Tampa JW Marriott, LLC in 2018. The lien claim states the GC serviced the project between June of 2018 and December of 2020. 

While Tampa and St. Petersburg construction attorney James Dickson has no legal play in the payment disputes taking place at the Water Street project, Dickson does express that all subcontractors should be mindful of their contractual and mechanics lien rights  — especially before taking on a project of such magnitude as the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street. 

“The first thing [subcontractors] should do is have a lawyer that helps them understand what their rights are, whether it be under lien law, bond law, etc.,” said Dickson, an attorney with Adams and Reese in St. Petersburg. “Sometimes, sophisticated owners will require the contractor to post — as part of the notice of commencement — the payment bond, which exempts that property from any lien other than the lien of the general contractor.” 

Read more: What is a Notice of Commencement? 

While Dickson advises subcontractors to remember their mechanics lien rights on every sized project, the construction attorney also suggests that contractors must be wary of any additional financing taking place. 

“At the end of the day, contractors and subcontractors have [mechanics] lien rights, but those lien rights are typically behind any mortgage financing,” said Dickson. “In other words, if you have a construction lender that has a mortgage tied to their construction loan, that would have priority.”

“On the other hand, lenders want to get their project done, and in order to do that, they’ll often make arrangements for unpaid subcontractors to get the work performed. It’s a bit of a dance that takes place. But every project is very, very specific and unique, so it’s hard to say one size fits all.”