Are you working on or bringing supplies to a construction project in Florida? If you do not have a contract directly with the owner, then you need to be familiar with filing a Notice to Owner in Florida. Often referred to as a “Preliminary Notice”. This is the first critical step to filing a mechanics lien. It serves as a written statement informing the owner of the property that you are unpaid and, if you remain unpaid, you plan to file your mechanics lien in the appropriate county.
There are a few key details you need to pay attention to when creating and filing your notice to owner. Doing this right is important because you want the document to be clear in intent and protect your rights. You also want to encourage the owner to settle your bill promptly.
format of the notice
Start by titling your document “Notice to Owner” and place this clearly in the center of the sheet. Make sure you have a line around this so that it isn’t lost in the clutter and clearly informs the owners of the document’s intent. On the line below the title, on the left, should be the date. On the line below the date, to the right, should be the full name and address for the owner, much like you would do for a business letter. Make sure you address your letter to the owner of the property and not the contractor you’re working for or the tenant that is living there.
Your notice needs to be very clear
Begin your notice by formally addressing the owner. You want to make sure your Florida Notice to Owner is professional, polite, and correct. Clearly state that this Notice to Owner serves as notice of a pending lien. You want the body of your letter to contain enough details to inform the owner and anyone else who reads the letter of the relevant facts, including the property you were hired to work on and the project, what work has been completed, what portion remains unpaid, and the exact amount of the delinquent payment. If you’ve attempted to contact the owner and collect the debt in the past, make sure you mention that detail as well.
Your notice to owner should be very clear both on what amount is owed and what date that amount is due. Indicate a specific date (probably a weekday), on which you will proceed with filing your lien if you haven’t been paid.
The Devil is in the details
Finally, make sure your notice contains your name, your business name, and your contact information. You want to make sure the owner receiving the notice is able to send you payment or contact to discuss the details. You also want to make sure the letter is firm but professional and doesn’t contain anything you can’t back up with facts and doesn’t many any unnecessary threats.
Make sure your letter is received
Sign your notice and mail it to the owner via certified mail, return receipt requested or have it personally delivered to the owner. If personally served, you need to receive a signature from an authorize signatory of the owner to prove service was completed. An authorized signatory, must be a partner (if the owner is a partnership) or a member or manager of the limited liability company. Save a copy of the letter and your receipt from mailing or proof of personal service.
Florida’s Notice timeline
In Florida, your Notice to Owner needs to be mailed within 45 days of when you completed your service or when you last received a payment. The notice must be served on the owner before filing the lien or within 15 days after you have filed the lien. Once you’ve served your notice, you can proceed to filing your mechanics lien.
Who is qualified to file?
Several limitations on who can file the notice and lien apply. You must be licensed to perform the work you are performing. If you are licensed but the contractor you are working for is not, you still have the right to file a mechanics lien and an obligation to serve notice on the owner. Also, only subcontractors or sub-subcontractors can file mechanic liens. If you are lower in the contracting stream from owner than a sub-subcontract, you have no lien rights or obligation to file a notice on the owner.
If you’d like help drafting an effective Notice to Owners based on Florida’s laws, contact the attorneys at National Lien & Bond. With over 30 years of national experience, they can help you craft a notice letter that works and help you file your mechanics lien if necessary.