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Foreclosing on Smaller Liens

July 14, 2016

PROCESS ONCE WAS MUCH MORE COMPLICATED

Lienors are now able to foreclose on mechanic’s liens under $15,000. Broward County Court may provide a more amicable, quicker and less expensive forum than Circuit Court for liens under $15,000. In the past, foreclosing on smaller construction liens in the Fort Lauderdale area ($10,000 to $15,000 depending on the timeframe) involved the process of filing suit in circuit court. Hollywood’s Circuit Court had exclusive original jurisdiction on all lien foreclosure actions without regard to the amount in controversy. Filing in Circuit Court on these smaller lien amounts had its drawbacks, namely it was more time consuming for your Broward County construction lien lawyer, making it more expensive. It also could also entail some judges’ wrath.

CURRENT LAWS TAKE PRESSURE OFF JUDGES

As noted, Circuit Courts had exclusive jurisdiction in all lien actions. As such, some judges feeling the pressure of having too many cases to handle on their docket would express displeasure to Plaintiffs over the Plaintiff’s filing their lawsuit in Circuit Court when the amount in controversy was under the dollar amount with which these Judges typically deal. County Court’s jurisdiction goes up to $15,000, Circuit Court’s jurisdiction starts at $15,000. Plaintiffs would often desire to file suit on their liens because the construction lien law provides for attorney’s fees, gives the lienor another defendant to attempt to collect its money from, namely the owner, and if a defendant does not pay a Judgment, the Plaintiff can foreclose the property in order to satisfy their lien. However, due to changes made by our legislature, Circuit Court apparently no longer has exclusive jurisdiction over lien actions. Under present law, Broward County  courts may hear all matters in equity involving any case within their jurisdictional amount (up to $15,000). Before the enactment of this law, lienors had no choice but to file their action in Circuit Court. However, because actions are considered equitable in nature, County Courts now have jurisdiction over actions under $15,000.

The net result is that many Fort Lauderdale construction lien lawyers are now filing suit on cases under $15,000 in County Court. Many lienors in the past may have hesitated to file suit on liens under $10,000 or $15,000 because Circuit Court was not a friendly forum for them to go to due to the timeframe involved as well as the expense. However, now lienors can file suit in Broward County courts which takes less time to get to trial and is less expensive and as such provides a friendlier forum to bring these actions.

Sources

  • Florida Statute 26.012(2)(c) and (g)
  • Florida Statute 34.01(4), 1991
  • Corbin Well Pump & Supply, Inc. v. Koon, 482 So.2d 525 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986)