According to Florida’s construction lien law, when a property owner fails to pay the general contractor or the general contractor fails to pay a sub-contractor for their services, supplies, or materials rendered, the unpaid general contractor or unpaid sub-contractor is entitled to enforce claim for payment against the property owner by placing a lien on the property.
Florida’s construction lien law can be very complex and difficult to decipher, which is why it is important to consult an experienced Tampa construction lawyer prior to filing a construction lien. An improperly filed claim of lien could result in delays, loss of opportunity to enforce the lien, or worse, the claim may be found to be exaggerated or fraudulent. If a claim is found to be fraudulent, it is unenforceable and a felony.
Penalty for Fraudulent Liens
Fraudulent Lien Defined
Florida Statute Section 713.31 defines a fraudulent lien as a lien where the claimant asserts a willful exaggeration of the lien amount; a claim for services not performed or supplies and materials that were not delivered upon the property; or where the claimant has compiled a claim of lien in such a grossly negligent manner as to amount to a willful exaggeration. A fraudulent lien is a complete defense to the enforcement of a lien.
In some states, a fraudulent lien is considered a criminal violation, which may lead to disciplinary proceedings against the contractor’s professional license. Florida is one of them. According to Florida Statute Section 713.31, any person who willfully files a fraudulent lien commits a felony of the third degree.
In addition, if the lien is found to be fraudulent, the property owner may assert an affirmative claim against the contractor. The contractor may be held liable for actual damages, attorneys’ fees, the amount of any bond premium required to discharge the lien, court costs, and any punitive damages resulting from the fraudulent lien.
Given the consequences of improperly filing a claim of lien in Florida, it is essential for contractors to be confident with the validity of their claim. To ensure that your claim of lien is valid and within the constraints of the law, we highly recommend seeking the advice of a construction lawyer in Tampa who has experience with construction liens in Florida. An experienced Tampa construction lien lawyer will be aware of the rights and obligations of each party involved in a construction lien, and will be able to provide sound legal advice for your unique situation.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.