If you are an architect, engineer, interior designer, or surveyor (a “Design Professional”), you have construction lien rights too! This means you can record a construction lien against privately owned real property (as opposed to property owned by a public entity) to secure your non-payment.
As a Design Professional, you do not have to serve a notice to owner to preserve your lien rights even if you are not in contract with the owner. All you have to do is record your construction lien within 90 days from your final furnishing (or final rendition of professional services). The only downside, however, is that your construction lien will take priority as of the date the lien is recorded; a contractor’s (subcontractor or supplier) lien will relate back to the date the notice of commencement is recorded assuming the lien is recorded within the effective period of the notice of commencement.
Construction lien rights for Design Professionals are embodied in Florida Statute s. 713.03. There are two parts to this statute:
(1) Any Design Professional has lien rights for services in connection with improving the real property or for supervising any portion of the work of improving the real property, rendered per their contract and the direct contract. For example, a structural engineer hired by the architect has lien rights for their services connected with improving the real property or supervising any portion of the construction work rendered per their contract with the architect and the architect’s contract with the owner. This actually gives a Design Professional not in contract with the owner wide latitude in securing any non-payment against the owner’s real property. Think about it. While the owner or adverse party may argue the real property was not improved by the service, the supervision did not go to an improvement, or the work was not done pursuant the direct contract with the owner, this argument in many instances will be a question of fact to be decided at trial.
(2) Any Design Professional in contract with the owner has lien rights for their services regardless of whether the owner’s property is actually improved. Thus, if you are in contract with the owner, any improvement to the real property associated with your services becomes inconsequential.
If you are a Design Professional and are owed money, consult an attorney regarding your lien options and rights.
Please contact David Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.