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What are my lien rights as a consultant for a project in Florida?

FloridaDesign ProfessionalMechanics LienRecovery Options

We were contracted by an owner/developer to provide budgeting and other preconstruction/predevelopment services for a to-be-built commercial structure in Florida. Our contract stipulated a 90-day period of engagement with a down payment at engagement, and then two payments at 30 and 60 days following the engagement date. We performed our work as specified, but the owner has not paid either of the additional payments. Only the initial down payment has been paid.

1 reply

Jun 6, 2018
Good question. A mechanics lien may be a viable option for recovery, but let's first take a look at options that are a little less combative. Sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien can provide a warning shot without actually having to file a mechanics lien or take legal action. It serves as a final warning: if payment isn't made, a lien will be filed. This document can actually be sent (and be effective) regardless of whether the right to file a valid lien exists. Another option is to send a demand letter. Sending a simple, yet forceful, demand can go a long way. Similarly to a Notice of Intent to Lien, a demand letter notifies the nonpaying party that legal claims will be made if payment isn't forthcoming. Sending a demand letter through an attorney could help provide a little extra "umph." Depending on the amount of the claim, small claims court could be an option, and bringing an owner to small claims court can be an inexpensive (though very risky) route to recovery. Finally, a mechanics lien claim could be a strong option for recovery, and filing a lien is much more cost effective than taking legal action. In Florida, design professionals (including those providing services as an architect, landscape architect, interior designer, engineer, or surveyor and mapper) are entitled to file a mechanics lien as long as the other requirements for a lien have been followed. Further, if the work performed requires licensure, a party must be licensed in order to make a claim. As for those other requirements - all parties who do not have a direct contract with the property owner must send a Notice to Owner to preserve their lien rights. This notice must be sent within the earliest of: 1) 45 days from first furnishing services or materials, 2) 45 days from when work begins on making specialty materials, or 3) 45 days before owner’s final payment to prime contractor. Again, though, if a claimant has a contract directly with the owner, a Notice to Owner will not be necessary. The most important requirement may be to file a lien prior to the deadline. In Florida, this deadline is 90 days after the date that labor, materials, or services were provided. Again, while a mechanics lien is a strong option for recovery, it should also be a sort-of last resort. Putting a lien deadline in jeopardy in order to attempt another method of recovery is a bad idea, but if there's time, exploring other options prior to filing a lien might be a good idea. For more information regarding Florida's lien and notice requirements, try our Florida FAQ (it's free too).
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