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Subcontractor's lien determined valid by a Florida court

Disputes can arise in construction projects all the time. Complicated projects that require a variety of subcontractors and specialties need to fit together under competent management to get a job done well and on time. If a disagreement about work or payment arises, there are a variety of legal ways to solve it.

Liens are possibly the most powerful device for ensuring resolution of construction disputes. In Florida, a subcontractor may request a lien if a notice to the owner (NTO) was submitted within 45 days of commencing work. A recent case shows the state's court's somewhat lenient approach to NTO contents in furtherance of securing subcontractors' rights to liens.

A Florida District Court of Appeal recently decided that an incorrect name for a general contractor on a building project was not enough to affect a subcontractor's lien rights. The decision stated that substantial compliance with Florida's lien laws was sufficient as long as there was no adverse impact to the owner.

The case began when the owner provided a notice of commencement that incorrectly listed the name of the general contractor. The properly named contractor did receive timely notice that the subcontractor was providing materials, so adverse impact was avoided.

The court awarded fees and costs to the subcontractor, while the owner is facing higher costs due to the legal challenge. It also stressed that substantive delays, such as failure to submit an NTO within 45 days, may void a future lien claim. Legal representation can help subcontractors determine and fight for their rights more easily.

Source: JD Supra, "When Substantial Compliance 'Trumps' Strict Construction of Florida Lien Laws," Amandeep Kahlon, Aug. 29, 2017

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