Pursuant to the Construction Lien Law statute, a laborer is any person other than an architect, landscape architect, engineer, surveyor and mapper, and the like who, under a properly authorized contract, personally performs on the site of the improvement labor or services for improving real property and does not furnish materials or labor service of others. Fla. Stat. § 713.01(14). In this context, “perform and “furnish” means performance or furnishing by the lienor or another for the lienor. Fla. Stat. § 713.01(22). The definition restrains employers of laborers from filing and foreclosing a construction lien as a “laborer” where the employer pro

A laborer whom is not in privity with the owner, or a subcontractor or sub-subcontractor who complies with the provisions of the lien law has a lien on the real property improved for any money that is owed to him or her for labor furnished in accordance with his or her contract and with the direct contract and for any unpaid finance charges due under the his contract. Fla. Stat. § 713.06. Additionally, Fla. Stat. § 713.02(4) provides that persons who are not in privity with an owner and who perform labor constituting a part of an improvement under the direct contract of another person shall have rights to a lien on real property as provided in section 713.06. Laborers are specifically excluded from serving a notice on the owner setting forth the laborer’s name and address. Fla. Stat. § 713.06(2)(a).

In Rutenberg-Sarasota, Ltd. V. Eisner, 509 So. 2d 398 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987), the Second District Court of Appeal examined a situation where the employees of a subcontractor brought a suit seeking recovery against mechanic’s lien bonds posted by an owner and a contractor. The circuit court had entered final judgment in favor of the employees. The contractor appealed arguing that the employees were not laborers under the lien law. The court found that where the employees performed their work under an employment contract with their employer, and that employment contract contemplated the improvement of the subject real property, the employees were laborers under the law and entitled to enforce their construction lien.

On the other hand, in Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local Union No. 821, U.A. v. F.I.T.R. Service Corp., 461 So.2d 144 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985), the Court came to the opposite conclusion where the contract at issue was a collective bargaining agreement. There, the court held that a collective bargaining agreement was not a properly authorized contract under the construction lien law because it did not contemplate the improvement of any real property.

While laborers do not have provide notices to owners, a person seeking to enforce a construction lien as a laborer must meet the threshold requirement of providing labor to real property himself or herself pursuant to a properly authorized contract in accordance with Rutenberg-Sarasota and Sprinkler Fitters. Once that requirement is met, a laborer can enforce a lien on real property regardless of privity with the owner.

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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: