Construction Lien Deadlines In Florida: Recent Case Clarifies Notices
The nature of the US legal system means that statutes are enacted by the legislature, but the laws are subject to judicial review by the courts. At times, judges will clarify the statutory language, as Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal did in a recent case involving the state’s Construction Liens statute. At issue was timing for purposes of serving notices, affidavits, and other documentation before filing a lawsuit. Spoiler alert: After a disappointment at the trial level, one Florida general contractor is pleased with the appellate court’s clarification on service of the final payment affidavit.
It is tough to keep up with legal developments when your attention should be focused on running a successful construction business. You can trust a Florida construction lien attorney to help you stay current on issues that impact your company. Still, there are some important points to note about the recent case on how to calculate service of key notices.
The Florida construction laws require a general contractor to serve a final payment affidavit “at least five days” prior to initiating litigation to enforce a lien. The recent case, stemming from a home renovation project, called this time period into question. The facts revealed that:
- The GC requested payment for completing the job;
- The homeowner refused to pay, alleging that the work was completed poorly and not according to schedule; and,
- The contractor filed a construction lien against the home.
On May 5, 2021, the GC served its final payment affidavit in accordance with the statute; on May 10, 2021, the contractor filed the lawsuit to enforce the lien. The homeowner then moved to dismiss the case because the earliest it could be filed would be May 11. The trial judge agreed and dismissed the lien foreclosure case.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the statute does not require 5 “clear” days between service of the affidavit and initiating litigation. Either the start date or end date can be excluded from the calculation, and the lawsuit could still move forward.
This case shows the attention to detail that is necessary for contractors to enforce lien rights, especially when it comes to deadlines for serving notices. The court’s decision was essentially a combination of two factors in determining whether the final payment affidavit complied with legal requirements:
- The Florida Construction Lien statute; and,
- The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, which dictate how judges evaluate statutory language – including provisions on timing for notices.
In general, best practices are to take extra precautions when faced with deadlines for serving paperwork.
Our Florida Construction Lien Lawyers Can Explain Details
This overview is useful for understanding how deadlines work for various notices under Florida construction laws, but it also demonstrates why retaining knowledgeable representation is essential. Our team at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. closely follows legal developments, so we will advise you when issues affect your company. Please contact our offices in Jupiter, FL today by calling 561-626-8880 or go online to schedule a consultation.