Mechanics liens for work performed on multiple parcels, lots, or specific improvements can be even trickier than the mechanics lien process in general – especially when work is performed pursuant to multiple contracts. Should one file a single mechanics lien on multiple lots? A separate lien for each different parcel or improvement? A separate lien for each contract, even if the property is the same? Something else? This intricate situation can often arise when work is being performed for a condo building/association or some other HOA. Since condos are separately owned, and there can be different contracts for work related to what is ostensibly one project, it can be difficult to determine how a claimant should go about filing a valid lien, or liens.
One lien claimant in Florida recently learned the hard way that there are specific requirements on filing a mechanics lien on multiple lots, and the claimant’s basic filing mistake, or misunderstanding of Florida lien law, proved fatal to its lien claim.
The Case Background
The lien at issue in this circumstance arose out of a payment dispute for work performed by an engineering firm for a Miami condominium association. Pistorino & Alam Consulting Engineers (“Pistorino”) performed design work related to concrete and stucco remediation, replacement of windows and doors, and a new entrance, among other work. Pistorino alleged that more than $100,000 remained unpaid for the work performed, and filed a lien against the property for $107,090 to secure payment.
The condo association argued the lien was improper because only one “umbrella lien” was filed, while the work performed for the condo association was pursuant to nine separate contracts between the engineering firm and the condo association.
The judge in the case agreed with the condominium association. While Florida allows for one mechanics lien to be filed against multiple lots in some circumstances (provided all requirements, therefore, are met), a mechanics lien may only be filed for labor or materials furnished to multiple lots pursuant to one contract. The Florida statute that governs this situation is §713.09 which states, in pertinent part:
A lienor is required to record only one claim of lien covering his or her entire demand against the real property when the amount demanded is for labor or services or material furnished for more than one improvement under the same direct contract. The single claim of lien is sufficient even though the improvement is for one or more improvements located on separate lots, parcels, or tracts of land. . . (emphasis added)
Clearly, in this case, the prerequisite was not met. The work was performed under 9 separate contracts, and so 9 separate liens would have been required. The judge, therefore, vacated the lien. It is unclear why Pistorino believed that one lien was sufficient in this case, as the “one contract” rule for mechanics liens on multiple lots in Florida is well-established.
While there may be other legal remedies through which the engineering firm may be able to recover the money owed, the extinguishing of its mechanics lien (and the security that provided) is a heavy blow.