Posts Tagged ‘Lien Errors’

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

Louisiana Suppliers – Extra Notice Needed for Lien Rights

Over the past holiday season, I was at a Christmas party discussing with a friend of mine who runs an electrical supply company here in South Louisiana, the intricacies of notice provisions before a company like his can file a lien on a private project. Others party-goers probably thought our conversation boring, but we were intrigued. This conversation got me thinking that I should report to the supply world what my friend did not understand…

Here at the Wolfe Law Group we love liens. We file them for clients and recommend them to all others out there as a tool to preserve rights if, and often when, funds dry up and you are not paid on a construction project. Part of the privileged class under the Louisiana Private Works Act (La R.S. 9:4801 et al), are suppliers.

There are two types of suppliers protected under this act. Suppliers who lease equipment to contractors (“Lessors”) and suppliers who provide the materials to be used in the project (“Suppliers”).

EQUIPMENT RENTAL (see La R.S. Art. 9:4802(G)(1))

For Lessors, these companies need to deliver a copy of the lease agreement to the property owner and contractor within ten (10) days of when the leased equipment is delivered to the site. This notice is required as in most states to put all relevant parties on notice of potential future claims. So for companies who deliver equipment to job-sites as a rental, it is PARAMOUNT that you send out this notice so that you can file a valid lien after not getting paid. Then with your properly filed lien you can go after the party you have a lease agreement with and the property owner, general contractor and as a last resort you can foreclose on the property! Very strong rights indeed.

MATERIAL SUPPLIERS (see La R.S. Art. 9:4802(G)(2-3))

Next, for supply houses, such as plumbing materials, and electrical supplies – these companies also need to send out a notice to the property owner and the general contractor after delivery of goods. The Supplier needs to send notice of non-payment to the owner at least ten (10) days before filing a lien. Notice needs to be sent by certified mail return receipt and needs to have the name, address of the Supplier, description of materials provided, description of the property and the total amount owed, plus interest and fees. Also the Supplier needs to put the hiring party, general contractor and owner on notice of the items list above within seventy-five (75) days of the last month that the materials were delivered to the project via certified mail return receipt – or no later that then lien period. Strategically it may be best to send out one notice after the goods are delivered to all the parties above with the required information, just to preserve the right to file your lien.

These notice provisions can be tedious and if not followed to the letter of the law, will result in an invalid lien. The notice practice should become a staple in the administration of the aforementioned types of companies.  My office constantly invalidates liens that were not filed correctly. We also file a number of notices and liens which are filed correctly. General contractors and owners pay lien holders typically first because of the added security.

Bottom line – all of the successful rental and supply companies have these notice mechanisms in place. If you are a company who plans on competing in this arena, then following notice laws is always a smart plan.

Other resources on the topic: Zlien.com, reasestatelawyers.com, levy-law.com,

Posted in:     Construction News, Filing Requirements, Louisiana, Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , , , , , ,   /   Leave a comment

Washington Law Protects Contractors from Dangers of Frivolous Lien Statute

A quick word from the construction law case files:

The Court of Appeals, Division 1, out in Washington state, has refused to deem a construction lien as frivolous based upon the complexity of the construction contract at dispute. The court in SD Deacon Corp. of Washington v. Gaston Bros. Excavating, Inc., decided back in May of 2009, that the state’s “frivolous lien” statute, coded under RCW 60.04.081, requires a more in-depth analysis of factual circumstances surrounding the substance of the contract and the lien.

The court in SD Deacon further reasoned that a court can only evaluate in a frivolous lien proceeding are, by way of example, whether the lien was properly filed, signed by the proper party, properly served, and meets the statutory form requirements. Issues of substance of the lien (i.e. the contract amount, amount due or change orders) are issues which require more substantive proceedings to analyze factual circumstances.

Because the frivolous lien procedure codified in RCW 60.04.081 does not provide for such proceedings, a party seeking to extinguish a lien filing will be unsuccessful in attempting to show to the court that the lien was frivolous.

Essentially, the court’s rule is that the “lien must be so devoid of merit that the claim has no possibility of succeeding” and that “there must be findings supporting the conclusion that the lien is invalid beyond legitimate dispute.”

The Court’s ruling provides some hope for “fringe” contractors who’s claims hold some element of uncertainty, but who desperately need the security provided by a lien in order to collect payment from an uphill contractor or owner.

The frivolous lien statute was enacted to prevent fraudulent claims against contractors, by awarding successful parties attorneys fees. The ruling in the case shows that the award of fees will not be granted unless your lien fails to meet statutory form requirements.

Posted in:     Filing Requirements, Mechanics Lien, Washington  /  Tags: ,   /   Leave a comment

You May Only Get One Shot To File Your Mechanics Lien

The Construction Lien Blog has some great posts about the importance of filing your lien timely and correctly.   Regardless of where the lien is being filed, just a small defect in the legal property description or the omission of something in the contents of the lien can render your lien null and void.

As soon as a lien claimant has their lien challenged as improper, the first thing they want to do is file an amendment.    And this brings us to a very important question:  Can you amend a defective lien?

In most states, claimants are only allowed to amend the lien to include missing information only if the amendment is made before the original lien period expires.

I stumbled upon a case out of North Carolina addressing this issue.    In Gaston Grading v. Young, the NC Court of Appeals explained this general rule:

…if plaintiff wished to correct the mistakes of its second lien, plaintiff was required to cancel the second lien and substitute a new claim of lien containing the correct information. Plaintiff failed to do so within the prescribed time and thus, its claim of lien is void.

While each state’s treatment of this issue may differ, it does seem the be the dominant rule in the United States.   I practice law in Washington, Oregon and Louisiana, and those three states treat amended liens similarly to North Carolina.

This is why I’ve titled this post, “You May Only Get One Shot To File Your Mechanics Lien.”  While you can – in theory – amend the lien if you make a mistake, you’re still stuck with the time restrictions of your state.   When you file the lien the first time, you should get it right.

Posted in:     Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , ,   /   5 Comments

Caution: Lien Laws in are Hyper-Technical

In most states, the liens laws are hyper-technical.   This means that the laws have many requirements, and that courts strictly construe the rules against the party filing construction liens.

This is true for nearly every state.

While laws across the nation provide lien rights to those in the construction industry, because of the power of these instruments most states require that the liens be filed in exact accordance with the law to be valid.

This is especially the case with regard to the required contents of a lien.

Each state has different requirements for what must be stated within a mechanic’s lien, and how that information must be stated.

Every state, for example, will require the claimant to identify the property being liened.  In Louisiana, Washington, and Virginia, however, the law requires that the lien use the legal property description and not simply a municipal address.   The proper identification of property can be so important we’ve written an entire blog post about it here.

In Virginia, the laws are even stricter.   Because the Virginia lien law is land record based, the claimant is expected to perform a complete title search to acquire the exact legal owner and legal property description.   A lien that does not lien the exact owner, at the exact property for the exact amount due, can be deemed invalid by courts.

Zlien does this leg work for your company, helping your company properly prepare these important legal forms.   Our professional legal document preparers are familiar with the lien and notice forms in your state, and can help your company Lien Smarter.

Posted in:     Louisiana, Mechanics Lien, Washington  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,   /   1 Comment