What to do if a subcontractor has liened my house?

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What to do if a subcontractor has liened my house?

I recently hired a contractor to do a small reno job in my house for $1650. One of the guys he had working on the job was fired part way through (nothing I had anything to do with). Now the guy that was fired has filed a mechanics lien against my property, saying he wasn’t paid for his time at my house. Can he do that? The job was already completed and the main contractor was already paid.

Asked on December 29, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First of all, by way of background information, a mechanic's lien guarantees or secures payment for a contracted service performed on a property. Such a lien stays in force until the project is completed and all parties named in the lien have been paid. Although the law regarding all of this varies from state-to-state, typically contractors, subcontractors and suppliers can file these liens within a certain amount of time after work has been completed and payment not made.

The fact is under the law of most states, if a subcontractor is not paid (no matter who hired them) the homeowner is still liable for non-payment. This holds true whether or not the GC was paid. Accordingly, a SC can place a mechanic's lien on property where the work was performed.

This obviously places a homeowner in situation of having to pay for the same work twice. The theory behind the mechanics’ lien law is that between 2 innocent parties, the homeowner is the one who ordered the work and obtained the value of the work, so they are in a better position to bear the loss than the laborer (or supplier) who provided work (or materials). Accordingly, it is the homeowner who bears the responsibility for making payment for services rendered. Bottom line, even if you have paid the GC, if the GC in turn did not pay their SC your home can have a lien placed against it.

However, you would have a cause of action against the GC but this can all get complicated. What you should do now is to consult directly with an attorney in your area. They can best guide you under specific state law.


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