Florida Statute chapter 713, 'Construction Lien Law,' protects subcontractors, penalizes homeowners

TAMPA - After 20 years, one Florida statute remains one of the most contested laws in the state.  One court declared it the "most confusing" law on the books, and some say it is hurting homeowners.

Bob Cochell argues that Chapter 713 is a subcontractor's only recourse when they go unpaid by a general contractor who hires them.  "I've got skin in the game, I've got men, I've got materials," said Cochell.

But the remedy spelled out in the fine print of Florida's Construction Lien Law often stuns homeowners.

Art Vetter paid a licensed contractor to build his Sarasota home.  But when that same contractor failed to settle with his subs, Vetter got a crash course in chapter 713, in the form of multiple liens.

Joe Best of Valrico says it happened to him after he hired a roofer.  The materials supplier hit his home with a lien, demanding Best come up with close to $8,000, or face a legal battle.

Here's how to use the law to protect yourself.

Chapter 713 mandates subs and suppliers notify homeowners they are on the job.  The homeowner can then ask the contractor for proof of payments. Subs who fail to provide notice to the owner can't file a lien.

State representative Mike Fasano says it is not enough.  He turned the construction lien law into a target during his first campaign 18 years ago. Yet his efforts to rid Florida of the statute fell short.

State Representative Greg Steube also understands why consumers call chapter 713 unfair.  

It was after we brought consumer complaints to their attention, both law makers pledged to amend Chapter 713 to make it fair for all parties.

Both representatives say they think subcontractors should be protected, but not at the price of putting Floridians' homes at risk.

We'll follow this as they head to the first legislative session of 2013.

To read the lien law as it stands now, visit
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0713/0713.html

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