What is a Notice to Owner (NTO) and can I use it to lien a property?
Have you ever completed work on a construction project only to not be paid by the person/company who hired you? Have you gotten paid but had to jump through hoops to do so? Since you cannot “take back” or “repossess” time, labor and most materials involved in a construction project, Florida construction laws offer you recourse should you not get paid. The law allows for you to lien the property that you worked upon as a way for you to recover monies that may be owed to you. However, we both know that you don’t want a lien on a property – you want a check in your hand. Often just informing the property owner of your lien rights is enough to get reluctant owners/contractors/subcontractors to pay you.
If you are hired by a commercial or private property owner, you have the right to file a lien if you do not get paid for your time, labor and materials. If you are hired by a party other than the owner, say a renter, or a general contractor that was hired by the property owner, you do not have the right to file a lien UNLESS you do one very important thing: inform the true property owner that you are working on their property. You do so by sending, via certified mail, a Notice to Owner to the property owner. You have to send it within 45 days of your FIRST day on the project. The Notice to Owner has to follow the format and wording prescribed in the Florida statutes, and you must have proof of delivery and receipt. The Notice to Owner basically informs the owner that you have been hired to work on their property, and it informs them that in the event that you do not get paid, you have the right to lien the property. It lets them know that even if they pay the general contractor or subcontractor that hired you, if YOU do not get paid, you can put a lien on their property. If you don’t send a Notice to Owner, or you do send one but it is not in compliance with the information required by the statute, or you do not send it in the time frame specified by the statute, you forfeit your lien rights and have no lien rights in the event that you do not get paid.
In a case where you are working directly for the property owner and you do not get paid, you are able to file a lien against the property without having to serve a Notice to Owner. You must do so within 90 days of the LAST day that you worked or supplied materials to the job. If you are in a situation where you are not being paid, it is often beneficial to send the owner, via certified mail, a letter of your Intent to Lien. This, in my experience, helps to motivate the owner to pay you before beginning the lien filing process.
Florida’s construction laws are complex, but they can help you secure the payment for your work if you know how to use them. Make sure you follow the proper steps so you can get paid. If you don’t feel comfortable handling forms and mailings on your own, hire a construction notice service to do it for you. The Notice Zone Construction Notice Service can research, write, mail and log your Notice to Owner and Letters of Intent to Lien for a set fee per document.