Florida Construction Law

Florida Contruction Law

Mechanic's Lien
Breach or Contract

Florida Construction Law

Kitchen-Drywall There are many potential aspects to a construction dispute, ranging from a simple failure to pay an agreed upon amount to determining which party is at fault for the failure of a system and many things in between. Each have their own unique aspects, but are often combined into the same case or circumstances.

Mechanic's Liens

People in the construction industry, whether a contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or materialman have certain protections provided to ensure that they are paid for their services. While this is commonly known as a "Mechanic's Lien," Florida refers to it as a "Construction Lien." Regardless of the terminology used, the concept is the same - that persons who provided labor and materials for a project have a lien on the project until they are paid.

It is often said that Mechanic's Liens are a creature of statute; in Florida, that statute is Chapter 713 Florida Statutes. What this means is that you must strictly adhere to the requirements of the statute to be afforded the protection it provides. All timeframes must be met and all requirements, such as the serving of a Notice to Owner or filing a Claim of Lien must be followed precisely.

The Contractors' Lien Law is far more complex than this webpage will explore at this point, but even a minor mistake could get your lien invalidated. Generally, for subcontractors not having a direct contract with the owner (which would include materialmen), a Notice to Owner must be served no later than 45 days after work was first provided (or the Owner's disbursement of final payment to the Prime Contractor). Since this provision places the Owner on notice that a lien is being claimed against his or her property, Prime Contractors (those with a direct contract) do not need to serve a Notice to Owner.

A Claim of Lien must also be filed. This must be filed within 90 days of the last date of work. Finally, to actually obtain money from the lien, you must foreclose on the lien, which must be done within 1 year of filing the Claim of Lien.

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Breach of Contract

Fireplace RebuildTo prove a breach of contract, a party must show 1) the existence of a valid contract; 2) a material breach; and 3) damages caused by the breach. Of course, this remedy is only available if there is a contract between the parties (such as between a contractor-subcontractor or Prime Contractor and Owner).

If there is no direct contract (such as between Subcontractor-Owner), a subcontractor will not prevail on a breach of contract action. All is not lost, however, as the law recognizes that subcontractors should be compensated for the benefit conferred upon the owner. This action lies in what is known as Unjust Enrichment. To succeed in an unjust enrichment claim, the Plaintiff must prove that 1) he conferred a direct benefit upon the Defendant, 2) the Defendant accepted the benefit, 3) the Defendant did not pay for the benefit provided, and 4) it would be inequitable to allow the Defendant to retain the benefit without paying.

While these elements seem fairly straightforward, real-life will sometimes throw in twists making it complicated. For example, if an Owner pays a Prime Contractor, who fails to pay a subcontractor, the subcontractor will not be able to recover from the Owner since the Owner has paid for the improvement (albeit to a different party).

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