Category Archives: St. Petersburg


When hiring a contractor, consider protection

Like any major purchase, when hiring a general contractor you probably take several things into consideration – references, portfolio and price – to name a few. But instead of a finished product that you can see/feel/touch, in a way, you’re purchasing a General Contractor’s experience and reputation. While most contractor’s will work to keep customers satisfied, you don’t really have any guarantee that the job will end up the way you wanted, that an unforeseen event won’t ruin your plans, or that your contractor will come through the way they’ve promised.

So what will you do if your contractor skips town without paying subcontractors leaving a lien on your property, if something impacts the timeline, cost or overall completion, or if there’s a dispute over the terms of your contract? Bonding is one form of protection you may have heard about but do not yet understand. Often at PJ Callaghan our reputation for excellent service precedes us and we do not use bonds. However, if you’re unfamiliar with your contractor or concerned for any reason, asking them to obtain a bond is a reasonable and fair way to ensure you do not incur any losses.

Daniel Oaks, our Surety Bond Specialist with Nielson, Wojtowicz, Neu & Associates, had a few things to say about the importance of Bonds, how they work and why you should consider them:


“A Surety Bond is a good thing for owners, investors and lenders because it acts as a third party guarantee that your project will a) be done to the terms and specifications of the contract and b) that you will end up with a lien-free finished project. Without a bond you’re putting a lot of trust in the contractor. In fact all government projects over a certain threashold require the winning bidder to obtain a bond to protect the taxpayer.

“To the average person bonding can sound a lot like insurance – you pay a small percentage and if something goes wrong the company makes you whole. The biggest difference between insurance and bonding is that there are three parties involved in bonding. The Contractor will obtain the bond and pay the premium, but in the event of a loss YOU will receive the benefits of the bond, not the contractor.

“While insurance companies factor in losses in their business model, make loss payments and move on, surety companies, on the other hand, underwrite to a no-loss scenario and will be sure to go after the contractor in the event  the surety has to respond under its bond. Defaulting on a contract doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it can be catastrophic. If it gets to a point when the contractor defaults on their contract forcing a response from the surety, the contractor is likely in a dire situation financially and operationally. This is a worst-case scenario for contractors and they will do everything in their power to ensure the project is successful and to keep it from happening.

“Though many customers do not request bonds in common practice today, we recommend they consider it. Even if you have an established relationship with a builder, it is difficult for you as an outsider to be certain they can complete all the jobs to which they’ve committed. When you require them to obtain a bond we do the legwork and look at ALL of their records, including their past history, financial statements, current and projected contracts, tax records, credit reports, etc. to ensure they are in a financially sound position to complete your job, in addition to assessing their operational ability to physically manage your project.

“This was a quick recap of a complex process that has variations from state-to-state. If I could tell readers one thing it would be to explore and consider bonding on your next project. Without a bond you are putting a lot of trust in the contractor and this is the best way to ensure you investment leads to a lien free project completed according to the terms and specifications of your contract.

Daniel Oaks is Surety Specialist with Nielson, Wojtowicz, Neu & Associates.

With eight locations throughout the southeast, Nielson, Hoover & Company is a nationwide leader in Surety, Construction and Commercial Bonds and is the largest provider in the Southeast.

Daniel earned his undergraduate degree at Troy University in Insurance and Risk Management. After working throughout the nation as a surety underwriter, he, his wife and family settled back in Florida.

PJC works with Chamber on St. Pete Store

PJ Callaghan recently worked with the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce on a renovation project to create the new “St. Pete Store” as well as enhance the Chamber’s official Visitor Center.

The St. Pete Store will offer an array of jury-selected products that are only “Made in St. Pete.” And the Chamber’s Visitor Center is the primary go-to for information about things-to-do in and around St. Petersburg.

We were glad to be able to provide both design services and construction services at cost for this important project for the Chamber and the City of St. Petersburg.

More information HERE (and here).



The Need-to-Know’s re: Notice to Owner

Whether you’re a developer taking on a multi-million dollar condominium project or a homeowner finally adding that extra bedroom on your house, you should be aware of the laws impacting your property interests. The importance of hiring an experienced contractor and having regular communication cannot be understated. At PJ Callaghan, we receive questions and calls about Notice to Owner (NTO) letters on a regular basis.

This month we took a few minutes to sit down with Ryan Griffin, a partner with Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP. Johnson Pope is a premier regional law firm in Tampa Bay. Ryan breaks down the legal jargon around Notice to Owner (“NTO”) and what to do if you find yourself with a NTO letter. Haven’t signed a contract yet? Stay tuned, next month we’ll highlight best practices to protect both parties when structuring contracts…

Ryan Griffin Johnson Pope“Under Florida law, those who perform work on your property or provide materials and are not paid-in-full, have the right to enforce their claim for payment against your property in the form of a construction lien. While you may talk to your general contractor (GC) daily, you may not know what subcontractors or material suppliers (collectively: “Subcontractors”) are being hired and paid by the GC to complete every aspect of your project.

“In an ideal world you pay your GC and they turn around and pay their Subcontractors promptly. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Even if you pay your GC in full, if the GC fails to pay its Subcontractors, under Florida law they can look to your property for payment via a construction lien. While the thought of a lien on your property can be daunting, there are some simple things to remember and precautions to take to ensure the construction project does not become a nightmare.”

Step One: Identify yourself and others working on your project

“Florida law provides a number of mechanisms to assist an owner in identifying the GCs, and Subcontractors that will be working on your project. One of these mechanism is filing a Notice of Commencement at the outset of your project. This also notifies the GC and Subcontractor of who you are and how they can contact you if there is an issue (i.e. non-payment by the GC). You should also be aware that you have the right to request in writing from the GC a list of all Subcontractors who have a contract with the GC. This is a great way to keep track of and verify whether all subcontractors have been paid when it’s time to pay your GC.”

Step Two: Obtain releases before paying your GC

“To best protect yourself, get the GC to have the Subcontractors issue you a Release of Lien before making any final payments for work performed. A Release of Lien is a written statement that removes your property from the threat of lien. If your contract with the GC calls for partial payments before the work is completed, get a Partial Release of Lien covering all Subcontractors’ work and materials used to that point. Upon completion of the project, and before you make the last payment to your GC, obtain an affidavit from your GC that specifies all unpaid parties who performed labor, services or provided services or materials to your property. Make sure that your GC provides you with final releases from these parties before you make the final payment.”

Step Three: Save all documentation

“In order for a Subcontractor to attempt to obtain a lien, it must go through many steps (i.e. send a proper Notice to Owner, perform work on your property, file a Claim of Lien, etc.). Each of these steps has a proper procedure and technical requirements. If the Subcontractor has not taken the appropriate steps, they may not have a valid Claim of Lien. The notices, receipts, releases, copies of payments, etc. that you have saved will be critical to your defense against a Claim of Lien.”

Step Four: Contact a lawyer/Contesting A Lien

“In the event that you need to contest a lien or defend a lien foreclosure, due to the complexity and time sensitivity involved, I would advise you to immediately contact a lawyer that specializes in this area of the law.”

About Ryan Griffin:

Ryan has a B.S.B.A. from the University of Florida and a J.D. and M.B.A. from Stetson. He is certified as a Florida Supreme Court Civil Court Mediator to practice in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Southern, Middle & Northern Districts of Florida. Ryan is a state and federal trial lawyer and certified court mediator. Ryan’s practice areas include: construction litigation, real estate law, commercial litigation and other business disputes.1006123_472265246188502_1579577636_n

Based in St. Petersburg, Ryan’s civic involvements include: Past President of the ARC of Tampa Bay (formerly UPARC), Board of Governors of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Lawyers for Literacy and Partners in Self-Sufficiency (which assists low-income families in achieving economic self-sufficiency).

About Johnson Pope:

Founded in 1973, Johnson Pope is a premier Tampa Bay regional law firm with offices in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa. The full-service firm employs 50+ attorneys and a total staff of over 200. Johnson Pope is AV-Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, and is consistently recognized by the Best Lawyers in America, as well as Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, among other honors.

SVP Burket appointed to college advisory committee

SVP Tom Burket has been selected to serve on St. Petersburg College (SPC)’s Building Arts & Engineering Technology Advisory Committee. 

SPC’s Building Arts programs include such focuses as Architectural Design, Construction Technology, Drafting, and Design Technology. And certificate programs focus on such areas as Sustainable Design. 

SPC-TSSPC maintains a series of advisory committees “to provide oversight and make sure our educational programs remain on-point and effective.” Further information about the advisory role is available at The one-year appointment is effective today, July 1. 

In the confirmation letter to Burket, college president William D. Law said, “The college values the expertise and experience you will bring to the program and appreciates your willingness to assist.” 

Burket said, “As a growing construction company, we’re glad to do what we can to help bolster, promote, and support Tampa Bay’s strength in technical education.” 

Contributing to the St. Pete evolution

A family-run construction company with roots around Tampa Bay, P.J. Callaghan is proud to play a role in the development of several community institutions in the vibrant and continually evolving St. Petersburg. The work and the organizations are varied – a common thread is that each is a valued presence, bringing something meaningful to the way-of-life in St. Pete.

PJC is set to begin a 15,000 square-foot addition of new classrooms and offices for Northwest Church of Christ. PJC was able to save significant budget for the church with creative value-engineering as well as a discount on labor costs. Multiple PJC employees attend the church (a nod to the company’s familial natuJANUARY 2015 016 - Copyre).

Recent clients also include: The reinvented Oyster Bar on downtown’s Central Avenue (overhauled entrance, and interior work); Pier design contender St. Pete Design Group (helped outfit design studio); and long-successful, nonprofit, abilities-focused PARC (pro bono horticultural project).

Enthusiastic about the community, PJC also is an active member with the St. Petersburg Chamber and has leaders involved with several local civic endeavors, from Engage St. Pete to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

A pillar of PJC’s business is in working with neighbors and friends and helping others where possible. SVP Tobin Robeck said, “We should do these things, and we want to do them – plus we truly believe that helping build a stronger community makes for stronger businesses and residents within it.”

President John Burket added, “We love this area – and we think it’s pretty cool to continue to make our marks on the community.”