SeaWorld Faces Construction Liens from Unpaid Contractors
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have ripple effects on Florida’s construction industry. As more businesses have been forced to close due to government orders–not to mention, a lack of revenue–contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers will increasingly find themselves having to deal with unpaid invoices. In many cases, construction firms have already had to file mechanics liens just to protect their interests.
For example, the Orlando Sentinel reported on April 8 that the Winter Park-based Wilsten Group filed three construction liens with Orange County against SeaWorld. According to the liens, Wilsten has not been fully paid for three projects that were completed just before SeaWorld closed its parks to the pandemic. The unpaid bills include $175,390 for a beach bar at SeaWorld’s Aquatica Orlando water park, $32,800 for a bird cart at the Discovery Cove resort, and $16,200 for a group of cabanas at Aquatica.
The Sentinel noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit SeaWorld especially hard. The company has already laid off approximately 90 percent of its workforce. SeaWorld CEO Serge Rivera also resigned recently “after feuding with his board.” In a public statement, SeaWorld said it has already communicated to its contractors, subcontractors, and vendors that “payments may be delayed” as long as the shutdown continues.
Time Is Of the Essence When Filing Liens
No contractor or vendor wants to take legal action just to get paid. But particularly in the present climate, filing a mechanics lien should not be viewed as a hostile act. Rather, it is asserting an important legal protection. It is also critical to understand that when it comes to construction liens, time is of the essence, as Florida has a complex set of deadlines that must be followed.
For general contractors, a mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days of the date they last furnished labor or materials to the project in question. Once filed, the lien must then be formally served on the project owner within 15 days. If the party filing the lien is a subcontractor or vendor–i.e. a party “not in privity”–then the project owner is also entitled to preliminary notice. This notice effectively creates privity, and it must be received by the owner no later than 45 days after the party in question either begins work or furnished materials, labor, or other services.
The party holding a properly filed-and-served construction lien may subsequently initiate legal action to enforce their rights within 1 year. But this period may be shortened to as little as 60 days if the project owner contests the lien.
Speak with a Florida Construction Law Attorney Today
Right now, there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the legal and business climate here in Florida. If you are a contractor, subcontractor, or vendor looking to get paid, you probably have many questions regarding your rights. We are here to help. The Florida construction lawyers at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A., remain on the job during the COVID-19 crisis. We are happy to offer remote meetings and consultations. Contact us today at 561-626-8880 if you need immediate assistance.