By Alexander Barthet

Many Florida contractors do not know that a statute exists which, if properly exercised, could have their liens canceled. That’s right – canceled. Florida Statute §713.21(4) provides that a lien properly perfected under this chapter may be discharged by an order of the circuit court of the county where the property is located.

Upon the filing of a complaint by any interested party, the clerk shall issue a summons to the lienor to show cause within 20 days why his or her lien should not be enforced by action or vacated and canceled of record. Upon failure of the lienor to show cause why his or her lien should not be enforced or the lienor’s failure to commence such action before the return date of the summons, the court shall order cancellation of the lien. It’s that straightforward.

This rule applies to all liens properly filed of record – regardless of whether or not the underlying lien is itself valid. Therefore, the owner of the property, or any other person who is deemed to be an “interested party,” can arrange to have a summons issued to the lienor to show cause why the lien should not be enforced. Failure to show cause within the 20 day period will result in a discharge of the lienor’s lien. There is no allowance or an extension of time provided because of excusable neglect or failure to diligently respond.

One can argue that strict application of this statute is unfair to unsophisticated lienors who do not have the ability to ramp up a foreclosure proceeding in 20 days. But that argument will apparently fall on deaf ears. The moral is that lienors must act promptly when served with a summons to show cause or run the very real risk that their liens will be discharged.

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