Chapter 713, Florida Statutes addresses construction liens (otherwise known as mechanic’s liens) in Florida. The law in this area can be pretty straight forward so long as you know the statutes and can interpret some of the terminology, which can be a bit tricky and usually takes knowing the case law pretty well, i.e., it helps to have a lawyer’s help. In order to perfect a lien, the claim of lien must be recorded and state several items which are addressed in Section 713.08, Florida Statutes. Section 713.08(3) even provides an example form with the required warning.
Seems simple enough, so what’s the catch? Well, you have to record the claim of lien no “later than 90 days after the final furnishing of the labor or services or materials by the lienor. § 713.08(5), F.S. That also seems simple, but the difficult question can be when is the final furnishing of the labor or service or materials. The answer could be when the certificate of occupancy is issued or when substantial completion occurs. It might not be though. The courts have not provided a simple guideline of when that time occurs, so make sure not to risk it and file early.
Assuming the claim of lien is filed properly, the lienor has one year to file a lawsuit before the claim of lien becomes null and void. There are a few exceptions to the one year rule though, for instance if there is a proper amendment to the claim of lien, the date may be extended. The one year deadline can also be shortened. If the defending party files a “Notice of Contest of Lien,” the lienor has 60 days after service of the notice to file a lawsuit to enforce the lien or the claim of lien is extinguished automatically. § 713.22(2), F.S. Another option may be to file a motion or complaint to show cause which would likely give the lienor 20 days.
Once the period of time for the lienor to file a lawsuit has ended (and assuming no amended claim of lien or lis pendens were filed), the defending party can file and record a “Discharge of Lien.” This will allow any party in the future to know that although a lien was filed, the claim of lien is discharged or voided.
Although these statutes seem pretty straight forward, they have to be carefully complied with and it is best to get the advise of a professional who deals with type of matter on a regular basis. It should also be noted that although a construction lien may be discharged, such as through a “Discharge of Lien,” this does not remove the original claim of lien from public records. If, for instance, the “Discharge of Lien” is recorded, there is just the subsequent record showing that the claim of lien was discharged or voided. The claim of lien would not, without more, be removed from the public records.