Posts Tagged ‘Express Lien’

Construction Lien Removal Suit in Louisiana

Attention all home owners or property owners, there is only one surefire way to have that annoying illegal lien (in Louisiana called a statement of claim and privilege) removed from the title of your property, a Mandamus action. In Louisiana and other states, a Mandamus can be used for a number of things (listed out in La R.S. §44:114) and it is a summary proceeding, meaning that it should go faster than ordinary litigation.

The Louisiana Private Works Act codified in La. R.S. §9:4801 et seq., is the origin of the rules which govern construction liens for private projects in this state. The specific statue that allows for an individual to request a Court to order the Clerk of Court to cancel a lien is La. R.S. §9:4833. The statute reads in pertinent part:

If a statement of claim or privilege is improperly filed or if the claim or privilege preserved by the filing of a statement of claim or privilege is extinguished, an owner or other interested person may require the person who has filed a statement of the claim or privilege to give a written request for cancellation in the manner provided by law directing the recorder of mortgages to cancel the statement of claim or privilege from his records.” La. R.S. §9:4833(A).

The best part about this statute is that if all of the proper notice requirements are followed and the illegal lien is not removed from the mortgage records by other means than this Mandamus proceeding, the property owner who brings the Mandamus suit is entitled to attorney fees and costs. This is huge because, this type of proceeding can cost a homeowner thousands just in legal fees. Here at Wolfe Law Group, we charge a flat rate of $3,500 for this type of proceeding, which covers all things from notices, to the actual Mandamus suit, to the trial.

Liens can be very technical and there are many instances where the letter of the law is not followed. In those instances, an owner can have the lien removed and even against the will of the party who filed the lien. As a contractor, filing a lien is very important to preserve rights against parties it did not contract with who may be liable for payment. Here at Wolfe Law Group we file liens all the time, but if your are like most contractors, funds are short and hiring an attorney can be too costly. Companies like Zlien.com are excellent resources for all things related to liens. Fortunately for lawyers and unfortunately for services like Zlien.com, enforcement of a lien and/or a Mandamus suit for removal of an illegal lien can only be filed by an attorney (or individual if self represented). I recently posted a Petition for Mandamus recently drafted and filed by Wolfe Law Group on JDSupra.com.

Bottom line: owners should file suit to have illegal liens removed from the mortgage records. If not then selling or refinancing the property will be impossible with the cloudy title. If you file suit and receive a judgment then you will be entitled to attorney fees and costs, which are provided by statute.

Posted in:     About Our Services, Construction News, Damages, Dispute A Lien, Litigation, Louisiana, Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   /   1 Comment

Filing Mistake Invalidates $12.4 Million Mechanics Lien

Mechanic lien laws are highly technical, and they frequently change in unpredictable ways (see recent controversial example from Washington). We’ve expressed the sentiment a hundred times on this mechanics lien blog – it’s very easy to make a common lien mistake.

Unfortunately for JE Dunn Construction Co., it seems someone may have really dropped the ball filing its $12.4 Million mechanics lien. The developer of a stalled West Edge project in Kansas City now claims the construction company’s mega-lien has a mistake that invalidates it.

When it comes to filing a mechanics lien, sometimes you only get one chance to get it right. Depending on the merit of the developer’s claim, JE Dunn Construction Co. may have gotten a very frustrating and expensive lesson about the technical nature of mechanics liens.

From the press, it looks like the lien would have converted the debt from an unsecured claim into a secured claim in the bankruptcy proceedings pending on the West Edge project. Without the lien, the claim falls to an unsecured one, making collection a lot less likely. That makes this lien mistake one of the country’s most expensive.

What Could Have Gone Wrong?

What could have went wrong with the mechanics lien, you ask? What kind of mistake could invalidate such a big claim?

Funny enough, the biggest claims in the world can be invalidated by just the simplest and most technical oversight. Here are examples of common filing errors that could have cost JE Dunn Construction Co. its secured claim:

  • Poorly Identifying the Property: Most states require the use of a legal property description, and others require specific descriptions of the property. In every state, the requirement is technical, and a lien can be invalidated because of an inadequate description. (See article about describing properties on mechanic liens).
  • Signing Mistakes: Mechanic liens must be signed in a particular way. Some states require they be notarized, some states require a verification with specific and statutory language. The smallest waiver from these requirements can result in the mechanics lien being invalidated. (See article on Washington lien invalidated because of verification error)
  • Not Sending Notice: Some states require notice when you begin work. Some states require notice immediately before filing a mechanics lien. Some states require notice immediately after filing a lien. Failing to deliver this notice, can forfeit your mechanic lien rights. (See blog posts about preliminary and other notices)

Who is Filing Your Mechanics Lien?

Let us be the first to tell you that if you are about to file a $12.4 Million mechanics lien, you have no business filing it without the counsel of a qualified and experienced construction attorney. That is big money, and it’s certainly worth spending a few thousand dollars on counseling.

However, there are occasions when it doesn’t make financial or practical sense to hire an attorney to file a mechanic’s lien. That’s when we really shine. And some law firms - like this one in Georgia – have even recommended using a lien service to file a construction lien in the right circumstances.

For this, check out zlien, a lien filing service that was founded by Scott Wolfe Jr., principal attorney for Wolfe Law Group.

This article was originally posted on zliens topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Posted in:     Dispute A Lien, Filing Requirements  /  Tags: , , , ,   /   Leave a comment

What Happens After You File A Mechanics Lien

Mechanics Liens must be foreclosed or enforced after filingSo, you fulfilled all of your notice requirements and you filed your mechanics lien on time. The other party still hasn’t made payment, and you begin to wonder…now what?

Why Mechanics Liens Work

First, before discussing what happens after the lien is filed, let me first address why mechanics liens are effective ways to collect on non-paying projects.

This is an important point when discussing what happens after a mechanics lien is filed because it touches on why mechanics liens sometimes prompt payment without any further action after the filing itself.

Mechanics Liens are effective for the following reasons:

- Without a mechanics lien, you can only sue the party you contracted with. With a lien, you can sue the property owner, those up the contracting chain from you, and the surety bonding the project.

- A mechanics lien can prevent a property from being sold, transferred or refinanced

- Without a mechanics lien, you have no security when you file suit on your breach of contract claim. With a lien, your claim has the property has security.

This is a perfect storm of aggravation to the project and the parties working on the project, that frequently results in getting you paid without any action beyond filing the lien. See how it worked on the MGM Project in Vegas here.

What Happens Next?

But what happens if your mechanics lien does not produce immediate payment? See article on this topic here.

Most states require the lien be “enforced” or “foreclosed.” This typically means that you bring a lawsuit against the person you contracted with and/or the other relevant parties (property owner, prime contractor, surety, etc.). In most circumstances, the lien stays on the books while your action is pending, and if you win…you have the security of the property to ensure you get paid.

It is very important to recognize that you only have so long to enforce or foreclose on your lien. If you fail to do this within the specified time frame…your mechanics lien will expire completly.

The time you have to enforce or foreclose on a mechanics lien varies depending on the state where the project is located. We have Construction Lien Law Summaries, and specifically the time period to enforce mechanics liens from each state, available on our State-By-State Lien Law Summaries and Forms Page.

And don’t forget about Zlien’s Lien Pilot, which calculates your project’s deadlines for you (including your deadline to foreclose / enforce a mechanics lien).

What Happens When My Lien Expires?

Well, this is a pretty sensitive subject. You can always bring your lawsuit against the party in your contract (if you are within the statute of limitations for your state).

But with respect to the mechanic lien’s viability, Kelly Davis has a great article published on her blog on this issue: Didn’t Foreclose on your Mechanics Lien? What Should You Do Now?

This article was originally posted on Express Lien’s topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Posted in:     Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , , , , ,   /   2 Comments

A Catch-22: Pay When Paid Clauses Do Not Extend the Lien Period

If you search “Pay When Paid Clauses” in Google, you’re going to get a lot of results that say a lot different things. This contractual provision – used in almost every general / sub construction contract – is perhaps one of the most confusing or misunderstood provisions out there.

We recently blogged about the dangers of using one contract in multiple states. The post used the “pay when paid” provision as an example of why multi-state contracts are problematic.

The provision itself seems pretty clear: one party will get paid when the other party gets paid. It isn’t. Interpretation of this provision varies by state, with some states striking down the provision entirely as against “public policy” and other states distinguishing between “pay when paid” provisions and “pay if paid” provisions. The only way to protect your company against this tricky provision is to consult with an attorney about how these provisions are treated in your jurisdiction.

While interpretation of “pay when paid” provisions differ from state-to-state, there does appear to be one constant about this provision across the country: It doesn’t extend your lien period.

Most states require liens be filed within a certain period after you last worked on the project, or after the project is complete. The fact that you or your company is waiting for payment because the prime or an upper-tiered sub hasn’t been paid is completely irrelevant. The lien period still starts when it starts, and ends when it ends.

As you might imagine, this presents a bit of a Catch-22.

On the one hand, you must file a lien to preserve your right to lien. On the other hand, filing a lien may complicate the payment problems for the prime or upper tier sub (and thus your payment problem), and may cause animosity when negotiations are otherwise calm.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for this complication. Each situation should be examined individually, and sometimes, a simple joint check agreement may be the solution. It’s just important to remember that good faith negotiations and waiting for payment under a contractual obligation to do so will not likely extend the lien period, and too much talk could result in the loss of lien rights.

Here are some great resources and articles on Pay When Paid provisions:

- Fourth Circuit Concludes Pay When Paid Clause is Unambiguous and Enforceable

- Pay When Paid or Pay If Paid Provisions

- Is Your Pay When Paid Clause Worthless?

- Contingent Payment Clauses, Use With Caution

This article was originally posted on Express Lien’s topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Posted in:     Construction Contracts, Filing Requirements, Payment Requirements  /  Tags: , , , ,   /   1 Comment

Liens Make Your Payment Problem the Entire Project’s Biggest Problem

When you don’t get paid on a construction project, that is a big problem for you and your company. But, is it a big problem for the entire construction project? Not likely.

So, how do you make your problem an important problem to the other players working on a construction job? With a mechanic’s lien, of course.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a mega-project in Las Vegas (the $8.5 billion City Center), and a contractor dispute that is affecting the project’s finances. There was something really interesting about this report for those of us who follow mechanic lien law and news – and that’s this quote from City Center President Bobby Baldwin, referring to over $500 million in liens filed against the project:

Obviously everybody is concerned about the liens. They have to be explained in great detail to our residential buyers.

To resolve the concern about the liens, the property owner is slowly paying off all of the subcontractor and supplier claims while they proceed with their dispute against the prime contractor. Without those liens, those subs and suppliers would have to wait months or years for the main dispute to resolve, and payment to trickle down from the owner to them. Depending on the size of the contract, that’s something that could cripple their business.

The Wall Street Journal article and construction dispute at the City Center was the subject of a blog post on the Construction Law Monitor, which that blog called a “Large-Scale Example of an Everyday Construction Dispute.” And that summary is perfectly true when it comes down to mechanics liens.

Regardless of how large or how small the project, mechanics liens creates a problem for the project. If you’re not paid on a construction project, the best way to make your problem the construction project’s problem, is to file a mechanics lien.

This article was originally posted on Express Lien’s topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Posted in:     Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , ,   /   3 Comments