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Should you file a mechanic's lien?

If you are a supplier or subcontractor working under a shady contractor and the contractor fails to pay you for goods or services, you may be faced with filing a mechanic's lien against the homeowner's property.

It can seem very unfair to the property owner to be faced with paying for an item or labor twice. However, you have little other recourse available to you in these type of disagreements.

These liens become legal claims against new or remodeled properties. The law allows these type of liens to be filed as protection when unscrupulous contractors deny legitimate payments. They can also be used against a homeowner when no contractor was involved with the repairs.

To start the ball rolling on this process, you must proactively provide written notice to the property owner of what your contribution is to the project, e.g., marble kitchen countertops. This typically needs to be done in the month proceeding the installation.

When no payment is forthcoming, you can file your claim of mechanic's lien in the Florida county where the property is located. The law allows a period for the matter to be resolved before it is necessary to file a lawsuit to receive payment.

It should be noted that the lawsuit needs to be filed in a timely manner -- usually within 180 days, although often much sooner.

Subcontractors can often avoid the drama involved with filing mechanic's liens by insisting that all checks are made out to both themselves as well as the contractor. However, if that cannot be arranged and you suspect that a dishonest contractor or bankrupt homeowner will not be issuing payment, you will need to be prepared to legally protect your work.

Source: FindLaw, "Understanding Mechanic's Liens," accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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