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What must I do to file a 'materialmen's lien?'

If you are a Florida contractor, at some point you may need to file a type of lien known as a "materialmen's lien." Because of the details that must be included and the time constraints, it can be a very complex process.

It is incumbent upon the contractor to learn and understand the law regarding these types of liens, or to retain an attorney who practices construction law to handle the intricacies of the legal process.

Who can file a materialmen's lien?

Under Florida's Construction Lien Law, those licensed contractors and subcontractors who supplied materials to the construction project have a legal right to file a lien against the property owner if they have not been timely paid.

Unless the lien is filed by a licensed contractor or subcontractor, it isn't valid.

What construction projects qualify?

The law only applies to those projects with a value of at least $2,500. When it is a residential construction project, the law requires that all direct contract between the contractor and property owner must include a specific notice as stated in the Florida Statutes, section 713.015.

The provision has to be "printed in no less than 12-point, capitalized, boldfaced type on the front page of the contract or on a separate page." It also must be signed and dated.

How is the lien initiated?

A "notice of commencement" is the first requirement, as it describes for the contractor and property owner the specifics regarding the project. It must be recorded in the office of the circuit court clerk for the county where the property in question is located.

That notice is then copied, certified and posted at the scene of the construction project, with another copy filed in the proper building department. This allows department personnel to inspect the project.

It should be noted that the timing of the lien's filing is important, as if multiple contractors and subcontractors file liens, the first lien(s) filed take priority over subsequent filings.

As you can see, the details and specifications involved in filing materialmen's liens are stringent and very precise. This alone is a good reason for contractors to retain legal professionals to handle the process.

Source: University of Florida, "Florida Construction Lien Law," accessed Sep. 01, 2017

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