Potential Legislation in Florida Could Hit Construction Lien Law

A state lawmaker in Florida who has told the construction industry he believes homeowners should have no responsibility for payment to subs and suppliers and wants to eliminate their lien rights on most residential construction may introduce legislation detrimental to the industry this week in Florida’s House Commerce Committee.

That legislation, supported by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, could be attached as an amendment to a building code-related bill called “An Act Relating to Construction” or HB 1021, as early as April 5, according to Deborah Lawson, a lobbyist with Lawson Governmental Affairs who is supporting Florida’s NACM Improved Construction Practices Committee (ICPC). The ICPC is a joint committee comprised of members from the NACM South Atlantic and NACM Tampa Affiliates.

Specific details about the legislation are not yet known, but a credible source has told the ICPC that the amendment would impact Florida lien law as it currently exists, and potentially harm the ability of material suppliers and small residential contractors to secure their rights to payment, said Lori Marino, CBA, regional credit manager for Titan Florida LLC and chairwoman of the ICPC. “If you take away lien rights, I think the way credit is evaluated will change.”

Wade Mullins, credit manager at Quality Precast Co. in Brandon, FL, and a member of the ICPC, said the system of checks and balances built into Florida’s current lien law works. “Our speaker is misguided by thinking we have a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

A credit manager for a large supplier in the Florida market has said that if such a provision were passed into law, suppliers would be forced to sell directly to a project owner, which in turn could weigh on private residential owners as they would have to apply for the credit and buy directly from the supplier.

Lawson said that the amendment filing deadline was April 5, though a late filed amendment can also be brought out at any time with a two-thirds vote of the committee, so it remains unknown whether the amendment will be available. “Although there are things in this bill Construction Coalition members want, none of them want it bad enough to support a bill with a bad lien law amendment. We remain united in opposition at this time,” she said.

Meanwhile, NACM members and other interested parties should contact their state representatives in Florida and let them know the impact this amendment could have on small construction business in the state, Marino said. The ICPC will continue to track this potential change to Florida lien law and update members.