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What to do if your client does not pay for a construction project

Working in construction gives you the satisfaction of using your hands to create something from scratch. It is a rewarding, but physically demanding job. More than just physical stress, you also deal with stress that comes from working for clients. Some clients may make a lot of changes. Some may push for unrealistic timelines. Some clients may even refuse to pay you after the project is complete.

Perhaps the client claims your work is unsatisfactory, or that it took longer than you agreed on. Whatever the reasoning, now your client is refusing to pay you and your employees for the work you completed. The good news is you have rights. Under Florida law, anyone who works construction on a property, but is not paid in full, has the right file a construction lien.

What is a construction lien?

A construction lien places a lien against the owner’s property to try to recover the unpaid wages. If the money is not paid, the owner’s property could be sold to cover these costs. It essentially places a cloud on the owner’s property title. A property with a clouded title cannot be sold.

When should a lien be filed?

After you have completed the project or the contract has terminated, whichever comes first, you have 90 days to file a construction lien in the county where the property is located. You then have 15 days to provide a copy of the construction lien to the owner of the property.

Assuming you have a contract with the owner, your next step will be serving him or her with a contractor’s final affidavit. The affidavit is a legal document that states you provided labor to complete a construction project, the project was completed and you are owed this much money for completing the project. At least five days before you file suit to foreclose on a property, you must send this document to the property owner. Failure to do so may result in your case being thrown out.

How long do you have to file a lawsuit?

You have one year from when you submit the construction lien to file a lawsuit. Your lien rights expire after this period, and you cannot renew a lien. During this time, the owner may file a Notice of Contest of Lien. You will then have 60 days to enforce the lien.

Since this is such a complex process, you may want to consider reaching out to an attorney that specializes in construction law. An attorney will make sure you file the correct paperwork and may be able to help you avoid filing a lawsuit.

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