Florida Statutes chapter 713, commonly referred to as Florida’s mechanic’s lien statute, or “construction lien law,” is intended “to protect those who have provided labor and materials for the improvement of real property.” Parc Central Aventura East Condominium v. Victoria Group Services, LLC, et al., 54 So.ed 532, 533 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011), citing WMS Constr. Inc. v. Palm Springs Mile Assocs., Ltd., 762 So.2d 973, 974-75 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000). Given how Florida’s mechanic’s lien statute protects improvements to real property, it is important to understand what does and does not constitute an “improvement.”
Fla. Stat. § 713.01(15) defines improvement to include “any building, structure, construction, demolition, excavation, solid waste removal, landscaping or any part thereof existing, built, erected, placed, made or done on land or other real property for its permanent benefit.” In 1986, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a decision addressing what constitutes an improvement which is subject to a mechanic’s lien. See Legault v. Suncoast Lawn, Inc., 486 So.2d 72 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986).
In Legault, a lawn service sought to foreclose on a mechanic’s lien for landscaping services. Id. On appeal, the property owner argued that cutting grass and shrubbery does not entitle a party to a mechanic’s lien under chapter 713. The Fourth District agreed and reversed the judgment awarding damages under the mechanic’s lien. Id. Applying the statute, the court reasoned that “an improvement, in order to support a mechanic’s lien, must result in a permanent benefit to the land or other real property.” Id. at 73, citing E. and E. Electric Co. v. Gold Coast 72nd Street Diner, Inc., 116 So.2d 660 (Fla. 3d DCA 1959). The key question is whether the improvement results in a permanent benefit. The court in Legault noted that while planting for landscaping purposes may be considered a permanent improvement, “maintenance landscaping” does not produce a permanent benefit to property that would entitle a party to a mechanic’s lien. Legault, 486 So.2d at 73, citing D.M. Foley Co. v. North West Federal Savings and Loan Assoc., 461 N.E.2d 500 (Ill. 1st DCA 1984).
In Parc Central, the Third District looked at other state court decisions addressing whether work performed on property was “lienable” under the state’s mechanic’s lien statute. Parc Central Aventura East Condominium, 54 So.3d at 533-34. For example, under Illinois’ mechanic’s lien statute, cleaning stairways, restrooms and sealing wall grout were not lienable. Id. at 534, citing Watson v. Watson, 578 N.E. 2d 326, 331 (1996). Citing again to Illinois case law as an example, the court in Parc Central recognized that while the “mere maintenance of property is non-lienable … cleaning the mess of demolition and construction is lienable.” Id. at 534, citing Cleveland Wrecking Co. v. Centr. Nat’l Bank, 576 N.E.2d 1055, 1061 (1991).
The above decisions show the importance, when looking to establish a mechanic’s lien, of determining whether there was a permanent benefit to the property to support the lien. Day to day maintenance and lawn care, though important to a property, does not provide the permanent and ongoing benefit which Florida’s mechanic’s lien statute requires.