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Contractors: Want to Get Paid? Don’t Lose Your Lien Rights…

You’re a Florida contractor, and you don’t work for free, but try telling that to project owners who don’t pay your invoices. If you’ve preserved your mechanic’s lien rights, these owners have a lot to lose by ignoring you, starting with the property you built or improved. On the other hand, if you haven’t protected your claim, you lose your lien rights, which are your greatest leverage. 

When you’re working on a Florida-based private construction project, a Notice to Owner (NTO) preserves your lien rights.  This notice needs to be prepared in a certain way and delivered to the right person(s) before a specific deadline, or you could lose your lien rights.  The purpose of lien rights is to give a contractor the power to foreclose on the property the contractor built upon – that’s quite a lot of leverage! If you need an NTO on your project and 1) you fail to serve your NTO, 2) you fail to deliver it to the right people on time, or 3) your NTO is not prepared correctly, you lose your lien rights and most of your leverage. You will likely not see your money for a long time or without litigation. 

With so much at stake, you are strongly advised to prepare and deliver your Notice to Owner with the assistance of a Florida attorney. Although a Google search can point you toward hundreds of free NTO templates, a downloaded template can’t steer you from any of the common pitfalls below.

Mistake #1: Leaving Out Required Information

There are certain details that MUST be included in a Notice to Owner. Some requirements include:

  • The property owner’s name and address
  • The name and address of the owner’s designee (if appointed)
  • The general contractor’s name and address
  • A general description of the work you are doing (or, in the case of suppliers, material that you are providing)
  • Property description
  • Name and address of the contractor that hired you
  • Names of everyone who is receiving a copy of the NTO
  • Statutory warning language, which must be precisely worded
  • Your name, address, and signature

Leaving out any of these elements can invalidate your claim, and if you’re using a document that has not been professionally prepared and reviewed, you stand to lose a lot.

Mistake #2: Sending the Notice Too Late

Subcontractors must serve the Notice to Owner upon the owner and their designees before: 

  • Furnishing labor, services, or materials OR
  • No later than 45 days after providing labor, services, or materials OR
  • Before the owner’s final payment to the general contractor (whichever of the last 2 comes first)

You also need to maintain a copy of the certified mail log to prove your notices were sent out in a timely manner. All these details can easily be overlooked when you are starting or in the middle of a busy construction project, but an attorney will ensure that delivery is timely and proven.

Mistake #3: Not Sending a Notice at All

If you’re a general contractor, you don’t have to send a Notice to Owner in Florida – or do you? While parties who contract directly with the owner don’t legally have to send an NTO, owners of development projects often engage a developer who hires the general contractor. If you’ve contracted with one of these middlemen, you should still send an NTO even though they are assumed to be acting with the owner’s approval. (If they aren’t, it wouldn’t be the first time!)  Many contractors choose to send NTOs on all projects to ensure they don’t lose their lien rights.

Contact a Florida Attorney

When your livelihood is at stake, it doesn’t make sense to cut corners by going the DIY route. As the above examples suggest, a Florida attorney can save you time and stress by making sure that your lien rights are properly protected and that an unscrupulous owner doesn’t get something for nothing. 

Portuondo Law Firm has provided many contractors in and around Miami with effective legal counsel and representation with regards to mechanics lien law. We will draft an NTO that meets all statutory requirements for content and delivery, so that you are clear to record and enforce a future claim if necessary. To schedule a free case evaluation with Attorney Marisa Portuondo, reach out to us today!

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send us any documents to review or confidential information until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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Portuondo Law Firm

Portuondo Law Firm provides custom services to South Florida businesses and residents. The Firm provides the personalized experience only a boutique firm can, without sacrificing quality.

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