Placement of a Lien by an Unpaid Contractor
An unpaid contractor may place a mechanics lien or “hold” against your property as a way to collect for work performed. Subcontractors, laborers, or material suppliers, may also may place liens which are then recorded with the county recorder’s office. The use of a lien is a typical means used by contractors and subcontractors alike as a way to secure payment for labor performed or materials furnished. Liens allows for foreclosure action, forcing the sale of the property when they have not been paid.
Contractors may view construction liens as a more advantageous alternate to litigation when cost and the time involved are considered. Also, the fact that the lien attaches to the interest of the owner of the property, and the priority afforded to properly filed construction liens over prior mortgages or other encumbrances may be an advantage. The question of lien priority is dependent on several factors and is best addressed by a qualified real estate attorney.
A property may be the subject of a lien when the prime contractor or “direct contractor” has not paid subcontractors, laborers, or suppliers. Legally, the homeowner is ultimately responsible for payment – even if they already have paid the direct contractor.
A lien can result in a variety of problems
If the homeowner doesn’t pay the lien foreclosure may result. A court proceeding that employs judicial foreclosure sales (similar a to mortgage foreclosure) is how mechanic’s liens are enforced. The court must determine whether the requirements of the law have been met and, if so, the priority of the mechanic’s lien being foreclosed relative to the other liens or encumbrances on the title. Once that is determined, the court will order the property sold and the proceeds of the sale applied to the liens in the order of their priority.
You may have difficulty selling your home if there is a lien against it. Buyers often won’t buy the property unless the title is clear, meaning it has no liens. A contractor with a lien has the right to have your property sold in order to pay off the lien via a foreclosure sale. More commonly, instead of forcing a foreclosure sale, a contractor will wait until the property is sold.
This is because in many cases a mortgage was placed on the property before the contractor’s lien and so the mortgage must be paid off before any other liens are paid. If the contractor forecloses on the lien, they have to keep up the payments on the mortgage or lose the property.
In some instances a homeowner may sell the property and use part of the proceeds to pay off the lien.
DiJulio Law Group