Lien for Improvements, Not Maintenance

toates Construction

Our office represents a number of contractors whose work includes maintenance. Whether it’s a lawn service, landscape contractor, pool contractor, or general contractor, I am often asked the question: Can I lien a job for¬†maintenance work? Florida law requires that in order to have lien rights, the contractor (lienor) must have “improved” the property.

Improved is defined as (Section 713.01(14)):

“…build, erect, place, make, alter, remove, repair, or demolish any improvement over, upon, connected with, or beneath the surface of real property, or excavate any land, or furnish materials for any of these purposes, or perform any labor or services upon the improvements, including the furnishing of carpet or rugs or appliances that are permanently affixed to the real property and final construction cleanup to prepare a structure for occupancy; or perform any labor or services or furnish any materials in grading, seeding, sodding, or planting for landscaping purposes, including the furnishing of trees, shrubs, bushes, or plants that are planted on the real property, or in equipping any improvement with fixtures or permanent apparatus or provide any solid-waste collection or disposal on the site of the improvement.”

If the question remains after reading that definition, the 4th District Court of Appeals has provided an example upon which to provide more criteria for analysis. In Legault vs. Suncoast Lawn Service, Inc., (April 9, 1986) the Court stated that “an improvement, in order to support a mechanic’s [contractor] lien, must result in a permanent benefit to the land or the real property [building].” From the facts in that case, the contractor had mowed the property owner’s lawn and trimmed their shrubbery, and thereafter filed a lien for “lawn service.” The Court found that, although planting for landscaping purposes may be a permanent improvement, landscape maintenance services did not.

Chapter 713, Florida Statutes, awards attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in a dispute about the validity of a lien. Therefore it is important that you select a knowledgeable lien service or attorney to help you prepare and file your liens. While a lien service can assist you in preparing the appropriate forms, only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice about what materials or services can be properly liened.

If you need help in enforcing your lien rights, please call the attorneys at Oates & Oates.