Insane contractor that won't take payment or give lien waiver

24 Replies

Hello All,

I am in need of some assistance in figuring out this absurd issue. I had a plumbing contractor do some work for me and paid him 50% for 50% completion. He continued the work another 25% and didn't do a good job. He asked for the other 50% before the work was completed. I declined because the work was not done and asked for some things to be fixed. This set him off on a rageful tirade and began to harass me via phone calls and text messages. Seeing this and wanting to avoid further issues, I told him I would pay him in full but that I needed a lien waiver for payment, but he declined. 

He has now put a lien on my property for the 50% that hasn't been paid yet and still refuses to give me a lien waiver. I asked my title company if I can pay at closing to which they agreed but would still need a lien waiver. I communicated this with the contractor and he stated (in a text which I have) "You can't sell the house, I am good". In other words, he doesn't need the money and it's worth it to screw me.

I am hoping someone might have some insight into what I can do about this. I consulted an attorney and was told I would have legal recourse but it would take 6 months and cost a great deal. The amount is relatively small, $1,870. I can't afford to hold this house for 6 months, it should sell in the next 45 to 60 days (it's going on the market today).

I live in the state of Missouri and have filed a NOIS (Notice of Intended Sale).

Thank you for your assistance!

If you can't negotiate it with him then you have to file a lawsuit. I would make it for the larger amount that includes what you lose in holding cost for the longer term, and losing the deal. Once it become inconvenient enough for him then maybe he will come back to the table. Also double check to see if he is licensed to do the work you had contracted him for, if not let him know that you could turn him in, Or report him to the state, bbb, etc.... about shoddy work. He is trying to make things hard on you, so the only thing that will probably change his mind is to do the same to him. 

Hope it gets resolved for you. Good Luck Aaron

Typically you can negotiate to some sort of resolve, but it sounds like he is being unreasonable. This gives contractors a bad name. If you start the process hopefully it will bring him back to the table for negotiations before you make it to court. 

Keep us posted! 

Sounds like you pissed him off pretty good . Your fault or his fault it doesnt matter . Now taking him to court is gonna cost time and money .  My suggestion , play nice , offer him $2500 in a cashiers check in return for the lien release .  If he says  "No" . it looks like you will be taking the slow road to court .  And if he is that pissed off he will wait till the last minute and get it postponed . 

Remember time IS money

Is there no vehicle for “bonding off the mechanics lien” there, as there is in most places.  Here, you’d have to post 110% of the lien amount in a trust account set up for this purpose or in a court registry, and the lien would be released from the property.

This is to prevent someone from doing just what you describe.  Ask a construction law attorney about this.

@Wayne Brooks   in our market we just add an endorsement to the final check  job paid in full. 

even the banks do this.. in our market.. 

but if the guy still files a lien for spit.. that's wild.. you could sue him for slander of title if he has indeed been paid in full. 

@Lane Forhetz

A quick google search shows a Missouri mechanics lien Can be bonded off, a process similar to ours.

https://www.zlien.com/construction-law-question/does-mo-allow-for-liens-to-be-released-by-bonds/

I am a contractor, both prime and as a sub.  While lien rights are important for the protection of contractors, subs and suppliers......No one should ever cave in to the extortion tactics of a scumbag contractor, not saying that is necessarily the case here.

@Lane Forhetz do you have a contractor with all of the details spelled out, including the payment schedule? I agree with the previous comments of filing a lawsuit ASAP. Inflate how much you sue for, it will never go to court so it is irrelevant. Once he has to pay for the legal fees he will sign off and you'll be done with him
Originally posted by @Lane Forhetz :

Hello All,

I am in need of some assistance in figuring out this absurd issue. I had a plumbing contractor do some work for me and paid him 50% for 50% completion. He continued the work another 25% and didn't do a good job. He asked for the other 50% before the work was completed. I declined because the work was not done and asked for some things to be fixed. This set him off on a rageful tirade and began to harass me via phone calls and text messages. Seeing this and wanting to avoid further issues, I told him I would pay him in full but that I needed a lien waiver for payment, but he declined. 

He has now put a lien on my property for the 50% that hasn't been paid yet and still refuses to give me a lien waiver. I asked my title company if I can pay at closing to which they agreed but would still need a lien waiver. I communicated this with the contractor and he stated (in a text which I have) "You can't sell the house, I am good". In other words, he doesn't need the money and it's worth it to screw me.

I am hoping someone might have some insight into what I can do about this. I consulted an attorney and was told I would have legal recourse but it would take 6 months and cost a great deal. The amount is relatively small, $1,870. I can't afford to hold this house for 6 months, it should sell in the next 45 to 60 days (it's going on the market today).

I live in the state of Missouri and have filed a NOIS (Notice of Intended Sale).

Thank you for your assistance!

 You need to retain legal counsel in your state to get advice on this issue. Mechanics' lien issues are very technical and nuanced, and highly local to each specific state. There may be a summary lien removal proceeding where you pay the lien amounts into the registry of the court. I don't know in your state. 

From a quick google search:

"A Missouri mechanics lien may be bonded off. Under § 429.016(17), a lien may be bonded off by depositing a sum of money or a surety bond with the office of the circuit clerk. The bond (or the sum of money) must be at least 150% of the lien claim. Further, § 429.016(17)(2) requires that a Certificate of Deposit be signed by the circuit clerk, recorded with the recorder of deeds, and a copy must be sent to the claimant (among other requirements found in § 429.016(17 - 31) of the Missouri mechanics lien statute)."

Hmm  - call for action - his name on the 6 pm news might change his tune.

Rick Davis - local KC attorney might have some input as he works with contractor type contracts

Originally posted by @Lane Forhetz :

Hello All,

I am in need of some assistance in figuring out this absurd issue. I had a plumbing contractor do some work for me and paid him 50% for 50% completion. He continued the work another 25% and didn't do a good job. He asked for the other 50% before the work was completed. I declined because the work was not done and asked for some things to be fixed. This set him off on a rageful tirade and began to harass me via phone calls and text messages. Seeing this and wanting to avoid further issues, I told him I would pay him in full but that I needed a lien waiver for payment, but he declined. 

He has now put a lien on my property for the 50% that hasn't been paid yet and still refuses to give me a lien waiver. I asked my title company if I can pay at closing to which they agreed but would still need a lien waiver. I communicated this with the contractor and he stated (in a text which I have) "You can't sell the house, I am good". In other words, he doesn't need the money and it's worth it to screw me.

I am hoping someone might have some insight into what I can do about this. I consulted an attorney and was told I would have legal recourse but it would take 6 months and cost a great deal. The amount is relatively small, $1,870. I can't afford to hold this house for 6 months, it should sell in the next 45 to 60 days (it's going on the market today).

I live in the state of Missouri and have filed a NOIS (Notice of Intended Sale).

Thank you for your assistance!

When you're dealing with a licensed trade such as plumbing, a complaint to the governing board is often more effective than a suit in small claims court. A small-time contractor may well consider themselves judgment-proof, due to lack of funds, but they need their license to remain in good standing to be able to continue to pull permits. I see Missouri has a State Board of Plumbing Examiners. They will have a complaint process.

I delayed updating on the situation for hopes of some good news. Unfortunately, that is not the case. 

I was able to convince the contractor to meet me if I brought a cashier's check. Upon meeting, he would not sign the lien waiver but insisted on getting the check. I had a witness with me, who could not believe the outcome.

The next day I went to the circuit court to begin the bonding process, per @Donald S. 's advice. I was told I had to file a motion for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge was not familiar with the statute and told me I had to get a lawyer to proceed. 

I am now working with both title companies, as the house is now under contract, to act as an arbitrator to get the lien waiver. The buyer's title company has declined to escrow the amount, even with insurance, to mitigate the lien and close the sale.

At this point, if the title company arbitration is not successful, I will be forced to be litigious and file a suit for an unlawful lien. I really would rather avoid this, as it encumbers the sale of the home which is set to close 12/3/18.

@Caleb Heimsoth In most states now a “lien release” prior to actually doing the work and being paid is nonenforcable.  As a sub I had a couple of gc’s ask for a lien waiver in advance.  My response was “are you f$$king nuts?” But, most of my jobs were $200k to $1M on public projects...a slightly different animal as you go after their required payment bonds, not placing a lien on the property.  It’s an indication they may intend on screwing you.

The OP has an avenue for bonding off the lien, as in most states.

If I was ever asked to sign a lien waver before I did the job, I would know they were planning to screw me over. That is like a flipper asking for all cash to buy a house and not wanting to sign any contracts. no red flags here, move along

Thanks for all the suggestions and support. Just wanted to update with the closure of this issue. 

I consulted a really good attorney who wrote a very strongly worded demand letter. This letter caused the contractor to come to his senses, take payment, and release the lien. 

Again, I appreciate the support!