Florida’s Construction Lien Laws: A Party’s Right to Information – Sworn Statement of Account
By James M. Gonzalez August 4, 2020 Posted in Construction Law Share
In this segment, we discuss the statutory right to request – and the requirement to provide – information regarding contracts, amounts due under contracts, labor and services performed, who performed the labor or services, materials furnished, who provided the materials, and other relevant information relating to a specific improvement to property. These requests are in the form of a demand for Sworn Statement of Account and a demand for Statement of Subcontractors.
First, under Florida’s Construction Lien Statute, §713.16(1), a party to a contract must provide a copy of the contract and a statement of the amount due or becoming due “upon written demand of an owner or a lienor contracting with or employed by the other party to such contract.” This section provides an independent cause of action if the party with which the information is sought fails to provide the information – either negligently, willfully or improperly – and the requesting party suffers damages as a result of this lack of or improperly furnished information.
However, as discussed in detail below, this is not the only information that can be sought under §713.16 by a party to an improvement to real property.
a. Sworn Statement of Account
Per Florida Statute, §713.16(2), an “owner may serve in writing a demand of any lienor for a written statement under oath of his or her account showing the nature of the labor or services performed and to be performed, if any, the materials furnished, the materials to be furnished, if known, the amount paid on account to date, the amount due, and the amount to become due, if known, as of the date of the statement by the lienor.” Additionally, this Demand for Written Statement under Oath (a/k/a Request for Sworn Statement of Account”) must be served upon the lienor as follows and with the following information:
- At the address and to the attention of the person designated in the lienor’s Notice to Owner;
- It must include the property description; and
- It must contain the names of the owner, the contractor, and the party in privity with the lienor, as set forth in the lienor’s notice to owner.
The receiving party’s failure to provide the responsive statement under oath within 30 days of service of the Request for Sworn Statement of Account deprives the receiving party of their lien rights. However, the lienor will not be deprived of their lien rights if the owner fails to comply with the first element above. Similarly, if the party providing the statement under oath fails to include or negligently omits information within the sworn statement, the party may be deprived of their lien rights if the owner can demonstrate prejudice resulting from the act or omission.
Florida Statute §713.16(3) provides the following form for a Request for Sworn Statement of Account:
REQUEST FOR SWORN STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT
WARNING: YOUR FAILURE TO FURNISH THE REQUESTED STATEMENT, SIGNED UNDER OATH, WITHIN 30 DAYS OR THE FURNISHING OF A FALSE STATEMENT WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF YOUR LIEN.
To: (Lienor’s name and address)
The undersigned hereby demands a written statement under oath of his or her account showing the nature of the labor or services performed and to be performed, if any, the materials furnished, the materials to be furnished, if known, the amount paid on account to date, the amount due, and the amount to become due, if known, as of the date of the statement for the improvement of real property identified as (property description) .
(name of contractor)
(name of the lienor’s customer, as set forth in the lienor’s Notice to Owner, if such notice has been served)
(signature and address of owner)
(date of request for sworn statement of account)
Similarly, if a contractor furnishes a payment bond under §713.23 and the owner makes a direct payment to a lienor, the contractor can request a written statement under oath from the lienor; seeking similar information from the lienor as noted above.
b. Sworn Statement to Owner
Lastly, Florida Statute, §713.16(5)(a) provides that a lienor seeking to perfect their claim of lien can serve a written demand on the owner for a statement under oath seeking:
- The amount of the direct contract under which the lien was recorded;
- The dates and amounts paid or to be paid by or on behalf of the owner for all improvements described in the direct contract;
- The reasonable estimated costs of completing the direct contract under which the lien was claimed pursuant to the scope of the direct contract; and
- If known, the actual cost of completion.
An owner’s failure to provide such information within 30 days of receipt of the demand will not be considered the prevailing party for purposes of awarding attorney’s fees under §713.29. The written demand must provide a description of the property, contractor names and the lienor’s customer as provided in the lienor’s notice to owner as well as the following warning:
WARNING: YOUR FAILURE TO FURNISH THE REQUESTED STATEMENT WITHIN 30 DAYS OR THE FURNISHING OF A FALSE STATEMENT WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF YOUR RIGHT TO RECOVER ATTORNEY FEES IN ANY ACTION TO ENFORCE THE CLAIM OF LIEN OF THE PERSON REQUESTING THIS STATEMENT.
As noted above, both the owner and the various contractors and subcontractors have a right to information relating to the real property with which they are improving. For more information on lien rights and how they may impact your property, project or business, do not hesitate to contact us via the link below.
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