Posts Tagged ‘Owners Rights’

Real Estate Agent Claims: Mechanic’s Liens Can Mess Up A Real Estate Closing

Although situated in Texas, the “We Did It Again Group” sells and lists property and property insurance in all 50 states, and even internationally.  Last week, they posted an article on their blog titled “Mechanic’s Liens Can Mess Up A Real Estate Closing!”

The author is speaking to property owners who are interested in selling their property, wherein he discusses how a lien works and what effects it may have on someone interested in selling property.

Because of the way lien laws work in most states, the We Did It Again Group warns that a “homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.”

The author of the blog post has a great explanation of what types of situations a homeowner may encounter if their property is liened and they want to move forward with a sale or refinance:

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

Get more information by reading the blog post here.

What does this mean for contractors?   As we’ve said before, when used properly, a construction or mechanics lien can be a very powerful collections tool.  Learn more about how you can lien smarter with Zlien.

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An Owner’s Perspective on Liens

We frequently post about construction liens from a contractor’s perspective – who are clearly interested in figuring out ways to qualify for the filing of a lien.

What we rarely comment upon is an owner’s perspective, who are concerned with the opposite:  figuring out ways to condemn a lien as improperly filed.

It’s important for those who usually file mechanic’s liens to step back and consider the opposing viewpoint.   There is some value in understanding that upon receipt of a lien, an owner’s will likely have the instinct of wanting to fight it as improper or unfair.

When lien laws are drafted, they are drafted with protection for property owners in mind.  And when contractor boards and other regulatory agencies commit time to lien laws, they are usually focusing on educating the public (i.e. property owners) on what they can do to prevent liens.

A December 2008 article from the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland, Oregon, stands as an example of this.  In the article titled “Five Questions to Ask About Liens,” the author goes through five questions owners should ask when faced with mechanic’s liens to determine their rights on proceeding forward.

This is not a rare example.   To the contrary, regulatory agencies across the nation who regulate contractors focus a great deal of effort on helping owners understand and overcome improperly filed construction liens.  See the page for Department of Labor & Industries in Washington, or the Contractors State Licensing Board in California.

If your company does wind up filing an improper mechanic’s lien and its disputed by the property owner, a loss in court could require your company to pay penalties, attorneys fees and more.

The point?   It’s important to understand the lien laws in your jurisdiction, and avoid making common errors and mistakes.

Andrea Goldman, a construction attorney in Massachusetts, publishes a great blog about this very issue titled:  Home Contractor v. Homeowner.  She frequently posts on issues that surface in home construction between the property owner and contract that results in litigation or arbitration.

With all of the work across the nation from regulatory agencies attempting to stifle improperly filed mechanics liens, Andrea notes in her blog that mechanic’s liens are so powerful of a collection tool for contractors that even an improperly filed lien can yield non-payment.

In her post the “Strength of Mechanic’s Liens,” Andrea states as follows:

Even if the lien is not done properly, one still has to file an action in court to dissolve it, which requires paying legal fees that are frequently not recoverable.

And regardless of your position on the subject (as a property owner, contractor or regulatory board), and regardless of how right or wrong your position may be, Andrea’s point is clear.   Mechanic’s liens are powerful instruments, and even when they are filed with technical defects, they cause parties to consider the debtor’s claim and contemplate a resolution.

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