Under Florida’s Construction Lien Law, a “materialman” is a person who furnishes materials under contract to the owner, contractor, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor on the site of the improvement or for direct delivery to the site of the improvement. A materialman may deliver specially fabricated materials off the site of the improvement. By definition, a materialman performs no labor in the installation of the materials. Fla. Stat. § 713.01(20).

Florida Construction Lien Law provides that a materialman who is in privity of contract with the owner, and who complies with the provisions of the Construction Lien Law statutes has a lien on improved real property for money that is owed to him or her for the materials. A materialman in privity with the owner shall also have a lien on the owner’s real property for any money that is owed to him or her for labor, services, or materials furnished to improve public property, if the improvements to the public property are a condition of the permit to improve the owner’s real property. Fla. Stat. § 713.05.

A materialman who is not in privity has a lien on improved real property for money that is owed to him or her for the materials and any finance charges due under his contract. Fla. Stat. § 713.06(1).  A materialman who is not in privity with the owner also has a lien on the owner’s real property for labor, services, or materials furnished to improve public property, if the improvement of the public property is furnished in accordance with his or her contract and with the direct contract. Fla. Stat. § 713.06(1)

In Associated Distributor, Inc. v. Mix, a supplier of appliances brought a lawsuit to foreclose a construction lien on property owned by Mary Mix.  440 So. 2d 516, 517 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983). The Fourth District Court of Appeals held that there was competent evidence to support a finding that Associated merely supplied the contractor with bulk order materials such as appliances which were in turn used by the contractor at its discretion in various construction projects. Because the appliances supplied to the contractor were not necessarily intended for delivery to the Mix property, Appliances was not considered a “materialman” entitled to enforce a construction lien pursuant to Florida law. As a result, Appliance’s construction lien was deemed fraudulent and Mix was awarded attorneys’ fees.

While the Contraction Lien Law specifically states that one who performs installation labor cannot be a materialman, a materialman is permitted to repair or replace defective materials provided to an improvement. See Robert C. Malt & Company, Inc. v. Chambers Truss, Inc., 522 So. 2d 430 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988).

The provisions of the Construction Lien Law applicable to materialmen are somewhat more relaxed than for contractors or subcontractors. For instance, materialmen are not required to furnish owner’s with a Contractor’s Final Affidavit. Qualifying as a materialman under the Florida Construction Lien Law forbids the supplier from providing installation labor and requires the supplier to provide the materials to a specific property. If the supplier fails to qualify as a materialman under the law and fails to take the necessary steps to perfect the lien as a contractor, the lien may be unenforceable.

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W Mason is an associate with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. W practices in Fox Rothschild’s Litigation department in West Palm Beach, Florida. W focuses his practice on commercial litigation throughout Florida, with an emphasis on construction litigation. You can reach W at (561) 804-4432 or wmason@foxrothschild.com.Below are some recent posts W has written on Florida Construction Lien Law: