Home renovations and repairs is big business in Florida, especially in densely populated south Florida where it seems that every available square foot of property is occupied by a residence or commercial building. That said, it is important to understand the lien rights of contractors, subcontractors and suppliers of materials under Florida law.

First, it is important to understand whether there is a difference between the lien rights of a company that has a contract with the owner of real property as opposed to a company that does not have such a contract. The prime example of the latter is a subcontractor or supplier of materials for the company that actually does have the contract with the homeowner. One who has a contract with an owner is said to be in privity with the owner, meaning the relationship between the two parties is recognized by law.

The short answer is that both those in privity and those not in privity with owners of real property have lien rights in that Florida Statutes Sec. 713.01 includes in its definition of lienors, contractors, subcontractors and those who contract with contractors and subcontractors. The means of perfecting or protecting those lien rights is, however, different.

As an example, let’s say a homeowner contracts with Company A to install a new roof on her property. The homeowner and Company A sign a clear, definite contract. Company A, in turn, contracts with Company B to supply it with all of the materials to install the roof. Company A and Company B have their own separate contracts, but there is no contract between the property owner and Company B.

Once the job is completed the owner refuses to pay the rather substantial balance that is due and owing to Company A. Company A, in turn, does not pay the balance that it owes to Company B. How do each of these respective companies perfect its lien rights on the owner’s real property?

For Company A, the process is quite simple. Under Florida Statutes Sec. 713.08, it must record a document known as a claim of lien in the county where the real property is located within 90 days of the last date that it provided labor, services or materials. The statute sets forth, in detail, what must be contained in that claim of lien, and the actual form is provided in Florida Statutes Sec. 713.08. Amongst other things, the claim of lien must include the name and address of Company A; the labor, services and materials that were furnished and the contract price or the value of what was provided; the name of the owner of the real property; a description of that real property; when labor, services and materials were first and last furnished; and the amount unpaid.

Company B’s ability to perfect its lien rights is a bit more involved. Although it, too, must record a claim of lien and comply with the requirements of Florida Statutes Sec. 713.08, it has an additional step it must take to ensure that its lien rights are protected. Pursuant to Florida Statutes Sec. 713.06, prior to furnishing materials or within 45 days of first furnishing such materials, it must serve the owner with a document known as a notice to owner. Again, the statute sets forth the actual form—which is quite brief and straightforward– that must be provided, and that form will contain Company B’s name and address, the description of the real property and a description of the materials that were supplied or are being supplied.