Can a property management company put a lien on my property?

16 Replies

Hello all!  I'm looking for a little advice.  I've just terminated my property management company and now they are saying I owe them $500. Long story short, I've been told to pay up or they'll put a lien on my property.  They said I do not need me to live in the same state (or country) as them, they don't need an attorney, and they said because I gave them permission to do work via email that's all they need to place a lien on my property. I've just started digging through what I have and I have found one very recent invoice that I did not give permission for them to do. Another quote I agreed for them to do because they detailed what needed to be done.  The invoice for the quote states LESS work was done.  Between the quote and the works allegedly being carried out by the PMC I paid for a home inspection. The major 'repair' the PMC said needed doing did not actually exist, it was only a tiny repair. Since I terminated the PMC my tenant also confirmed that a smaller repair was done on something but the PMC told me in their quote more work was needed for that specific item. I just wanted to check - is the property management company correct in what they are threatening? Can they just run to a court and slap a lien on my property because I disagree with what they have charged? If they did run to a Court (which one is it likely to be?) and how would I get to know about any hearing that might happen? Or is it just a bullying tactic to try and pressure me into paying? Any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

If you are in the US, then short answer, yes they can.  Long answer is that if this is within US jurisdiction they will have to get a judgement in court for the amount first, then they can apply to have it as a lien on your property.  You can contest the judgement.  For $500 it's hardly worth it for them I would think.  As far as venue, Your PM agreement should define the jurisdiction for disputes.

They do not have to go to court to obtain a judgement if they are filing a mechanics lien which is what it sounds like you are describing. Obviously there is a process to dispute this and there are many rules about how they must be filed in each state. Pickup the phone and negotiate to reach a settlement. 

These guys could be total crooks but most of the time the PM is just trying to get money back they advanced an owner for a repair. 

Hello, Thank you so much for the information.  I suspect it is a mechanics lien (I've been googling) because the PMC said they don't need an attorney and I don't have to live in the area or have a local mailing address for them to apply it. The PMC Agreement says nothing about jurisdiction for disputes. So, I live in the UK, my rental property and the PMC is in Buffalo NYS.  I am trying to speak to the PMC (on email because I know it'll turn into a huge argument over the phone) because I have gathered information that one of the recent charges was for a repair that was well above the limit set in our agreement for a non emergency repair - they now (not surprisingly) claim it WAS an emergency repair. This charge came about because of the annual HQS inspection from a rental assistance company for one of my tenants and they have just confirmed it was NOT an emergency repair that needed sorting out and that is why is was listed in the inspection, it was a minor repair for which a 30 day notice to fix was more than adequate.  These repairs I speak of were all done 'in house' by the PMC so no payment was made to an outside company. They set their own (very expensive) prices for repairs, tell you very little and then get moody when you question why they're throwing enormous invoices at you on a very regular occurrence.

Back to the threat of the lien - if they ignored me querying their invoices and went ahead and applied a mechanics lien to my property, how do I contest it (or return the favor to them), when or how will I get to hear about it, do they have to re-apply it every year to stop me selling the property (which I do not intend to do for another few decades, if ever), can they put extra costs & interest on the lien and can they apply to the courts, at any time, for a foreclosure to settle what they say I owe? I know it might seem I am a little paranoid but I want to explore this subject and I cannot seem to find the right words to use in a Google search....  If any clarification is needed please let me know.....Any more help or advice really is most welcome!

I'd suggest finding a real estate attorney in the Buffalo area and having them handle this on your behalf, if you don't want to just bite the bullet and pay the invoice. 

The attorney fees may be as much as the original bill in question, but it sounds like this has become a matter of principle. And a local attorney is good to have in your rolodex anyway for future issues that may crop up.

The Lien process is State dependent.  In Calif, the contract must mention the automatic permission to file. Otherwise, a court case and a favorable decision is required.

With you in the UK, the Notification process would be a nightmare.  If they do file, you'll need a local attorney to represent you and they will bet you'll not follow through.

What is the name of this PMC?

Hello, I received a message on this because "Buffalo" was mentioned. I am not exactly sure what your issues are because your original post is not showing up, however, I am a real estate attorney in Buffalo, New York  if you'd like to give me a call to discuss, I'd be happy to speak with you. You can pm me

If the PMC actually did the work, they may have a right to file a mechanics lien but if they were only an agent for you, then they would likely need to bring an action for breach of your property management contract (i.e. perhaps on the basis that they advanced funds for the work for which they are entitled to reimbursement). It depends on New York's laws. Perhaps a NY licensed attorney on BP can provide assist.

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@John Mead

Looks like you should talk to @Heather Anderson

However, it would be great if you could post an update now and then. I'm interested in the outcome.

From my understanding, only Licensed Contractors can slap a Mechanic's Lien on your property.

If they are licensed and fail to show that they performed work for you without your permission, and are still able to slap a Mechanic's Lien on your property, this would certainly be unjust.

It seems like an easy win if you take them to court since they could have possibly have a signed invoice from you.

Did the PMC have power to sign Contracts for Work related to your property without permission? Maybe you should check your agreement with the PMC.

Hopefully this will workout well for you.

It's certainly valuable information once you sort it all out.

Investor Llew

In my management agreement any code violations or repairs mandated by a housing inspection have implicit authority to be made. Perhaps your agreement is similar but apart from that when you mention these "enormous" bills and inflated charges you previously only mentioned $500 being owed. If all you're talking about is $500 you need to pick up the phone and negotiate or move on down the road. It's not worth the time, effort or mental energy. If you feel you were taken advantage of give them proper reviews online to that end. 

Doing anything else other than calling your PM and working it out will cost thousands more in time and money.    You can have this wrapped up in under 10 minutes. 

this answer to this is they can file a mechanics lien for work they have done and have documentation to prove it

@John Mead I agree with @Chris D. can you please let us know the name of the company you were dealing with.  it would help anyone investing in the Buffalo area, especially anyone that is in a similar situation as you and investing at a long distance.  it would be a shame to see someone else get stuck with this awful company.

I agree with @Michael Karl , @John Mead - I may be in the market for one myself in the near future and so far it sounds as if we should avoid this one.  

Hello everyone, Sorry it's taken me a while to post an update... hopefully, this information may be useful to someone in the future.

So - the Mechanic's Lien. I had a very long and interesting and informative chat with Kushnick Pallaci. Filing can be done for very little cost if you do it yourself. However, filing yourself is not recommended because there are very strict rules and procedures in place. I was told you really need to know your stuff to do it solo. The cost for a professional to do it for you is ... LOTS ... and if a foreclosure is forced it'll cost thousands and can take years to fight out. In my case, a crappy little $500.00 claim means it's simply not economical (unless the filling body has a s-e-r-i-o-u-s grudge and money to burn) to pursue. To date I have heard and received nothing from the PMC. Well, that's a lie - I received a Christmas Card from the naughty PMC. Nice.

I want to be clear. If the PMC actually did the work they claimed to have completed, I would have paid them. They have had thousands out of me over the years.  Because I have evidence that they did not do the work they claimed I felt I had no choice but to stand up for myself and then confront them. They had no choice but to reply angrily and threaten to sue me or plonk a lien on my house - what else could they do? I feel that I cut a funding stream. They certainly would NOT have agreed with a "...yes, you're right, Sorry, let me refund you.  I've been fleecing you for everything I could because you are 4000 miles away and will do nothing to stop me", would they?.

@Account Closed   ..The company in question is DASA Properties on South Park Avenue, Buffalo. The owner, Lisa Fucina, was the one who was throwing the insults and threats and for some reason always copied her sister, Teresa Ruggerio in to the emails. I'll never know why she did this, not that I really care.... From personal experience I would NOT suggest getting into bed with this company! (Obviously!) The relationship started nice and lovely but as soon as I started asking questions about the work they claimed to have completed the relationship moved south and they refused point blank to send even basic photos of before and after any repair invoice they claimed - the invoices were always their own letterhead and sometimes simply did not make sense. The repair bills became more frequent and expensive and I had to do something because they were out of control. The rest is history and ended up with me starting this post.

Since my last post my partner ( Sarah Godbold , she just registered on BP ) and I have set up the necessaries and have taken control of the property ourselves. Sarah deals directly with the tenants and feels that she can work with them.  There has been only one instance when a call came in at 1am to report a problem - a problem that was resolved with a couple of phone calls and a relatively inexpensive repair bill.  The rest of the time she deals with US stuff from mid afternoon and so far things are progressing as planned. Sarah's a qualified Accountant and has always dealt with our tax affairs, in the US and in the UK, so it makes total sense for us to take back control... Interesting and exciting times ahead!

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