Under the lien statute, the term “contractor” means a person/party other than a materialman or laborer who has a contract with the owner of real property for improving it. This definition also applies to a party who takes over from a previous contractor employed to finish the contract work with the owner. The term “contractor” can also be used to define an architect, landscape architect, or engineer with a design-build contract. The key to knowing if one is a “contractor” is ones relationship with the owner. A party with a direct contract (or in contractual privity with) the owner of the real property being improved is a “contractor”. The term contractor also covers architects, landscape architects and engineers providing services under a design build contract.
The term “subcontractor” means a person/party other than a materialman or laborer who has a contract with a contractor for the performance of any part of such contractor’s contract. Again, the key here is the question of contractual privity. For a subcontractor, its contract work comes from the contractor not the owner. By way of extension, a subsubcontractor is a person/party other than a materialman or laborer who has a contractor with a subcontractor for the performance of any part of such subcontractors contract. Both the term subcontractor and subsubcontractor includes a temporary help firm or labor company.
Architects, landscape architects, interior designers, surveyors, mappers and engineers fall under this definition and are entitled to file liens for their services. Liens for professional services are governed by Florida Statutes §713.03. If the design professional has a direct contract with the owner, then they may lien the property for the services provided, even if the property was not actually improved. If however, the professional did not have a contract with the owner, then lien rights apply only if the property is actually improved. Design professionals are entitled to lien for design work, as well as supervisory work in the construction process. These activities fall under “services” rendered to improve real property and are therefore lienable.
The term “laborer” is defined as a person with a contract to personally perform labor on the site of the improvement. A laborer does not furnish materials or the labor services of others. The term does not apply to architects, landscape architects, engineers, surveyors and mappers. Note that a temporary labor company (while having its own rights to lien) is not a “laborer” as defined under Fla. Stat. §713.01(16).
A supplier as defined by the statute (Fla. Stat. §713.01) does not perform any labor or installation on a project. A supplier only supplies materials, whether directly to the project site or to the offsite facilities of the party they are contracting with. If they perform any labor or installation on a project in conjunction with supplying materials, they are a subcontractor and not a supplier.
Knowing your relative position in the chain of contractors, subcontractors and suppliers is critical. Apart from determining what your lien rights are, your contractual relationship to other parties determines your respective obligations and duties to perfect those rights. An attorney well versed in Florida’s lien laws can assist you in understanding these important factors and guide you through the process of perfecting your rights to payment.
BY: JOSE A. RODRIGUEZ, ESQ.
The Soto Law Group, P.A.
2400 E. Commercial Blvd., Suite 400
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
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