It depends on whether or not it is a public (255.05) project or a private (713.23 or 713.245) job. If it is a public project, the statutes allow for some leeway on when you can file a lawsuit for retainage.
On a public job, a claimant can sue for retainage within one year of performance if the public entity has paid the claimant’s retainage to the contractor and the statutory times for payment of that retainage to the claimant has expired (see 218.735 and 255.073(3)) or the claimant has completed his work, and 70 days have passed since the contractor sent their final request for final payment, or it is 160 days after substantial completion of the project, or the contractor has not responded to the claimant within 10 days of certain questions. The questions the contractor must answer are has substantial completion been reached; has the contractor been paid claimant’s retainage; or has the contractor sent his final payment request? If you can’t sue before one year of completing work because none of these four conditions are satisfied, then the one year statute of limitations is extended until 120 days after satisfying one of the above 4 conditions.
There are no similar statutes for private work covered under 713. Under 713.23, it states that no action shall be instituted or prosecuted against the contractor or against the surety on the bond under this section after 1 year from the performance of the labor or completion of delivery of the materials and supplies. The time period for bringing an action against the contractor or surety on the bond shall be measured from the last day of furnishing labor, services, or materials by the lienor and shall not be measured by other standards, such as the issuance of a certificate of occupancy or the issuance of a certificate of substantial completion.
Under a conditional payment bond (713.245) The time to sue might be slightly different again. It states: except as specified in this section, all bonds issued under this section must conform to the requirements of s. 713.23(1)(a), (b), (f), and (4). No action shall be instituted or prosecuted against the contractor or the surety after 1 year from the date the lien is transferred to the bond. So it appears, and you should have this checked by your attorney, that under a conditional payment bond you have one year from the date the bond is transferred to the bond, whereas with an unconditional bond, the time starts ticking after 1 year from the performance of the labor or completion of delivery of the materials and supplies. We are bringing this up so you understand that the time to sue for retainage can be complicated and we advise that you talk to an attorney if you think the time might be ticking for you.