Contractor scaring me with contractor’s’ lien

53 Replies

Hey all,

I hired this contractor to do some balcony work on my property. I paid him 50% of the final price as agreed in our contract for the completion of 50% of the work. 

However, it turns out the work was of low quality upon closer inspection (he pressured me to pay him immediately after the work was done because he ‘had somewhere to be’ - my mistake to acquiesce), so when he texted me to ask about coming back and finishing the work, I told him I didn’t want him to return to finish the job. I told him I didn’t like his impatient attitude when I was inspecting his work and the quality of his work was ultimately unacceptable as grounds for my letting him go.

Whereupon he insists I still owe him $75 because he actually completed more than 50% of the work the first time around. I told him politely that I will not be paying him that money. 

He then told me he will be filing a contractor's lien against my property for his ‘missing wages.' I told him to go ahead, as I will be disputing everything he says that cannot be substantiated by evidence.

My question to you all is: Can he actually successfully do this if I, the homeowner, dispute his claims and he doesn't have the evidence to do so? My first thought was of course not, but then again I don't have the experience many of you do in real estate, so I might be missing something.

Any help would be mightily appreciated!

any one can file a lien.. does not make it valid.. this is a pretty petty argument over 75 bucks.. but you can call his bluff probably wont do it. but if he does pay him.. cost you more to try to fight obviously.

$75 is a pretty small amount of money in the real estate world. Pay the guy and just make sure none of your friends hire him. I can't see someone filing a lien for $75 bucks but for spite I suppose they could. If you aren't planning on selling the property anytime soon, it won't matter much but someday could cost a lot more than that to clean up the title than what he's asking for.

Wouldn't worry much if it was me. It's going to cost him 500 plus to get an attorney to file a lien anyway. Sounds like you hired a fly by night guy( no offense) in future spend a little more and get us licensed and insured guys and headaches shouldn't be there

Hey guys,

Thanks for the fast responses. A few of you mention I should pay him the $75, but I don't feel like I should, in principle, because he did not do more than half the work upon closer inspection after I paid him, and the work that he did do wasn't of acceptable quality. 

It just doesn't seem right that he should be able to successfully file a lien against my property solely on the basis of his own unsubstantiated claims. I've kept all my emails and texts saved with him, including the contract he signed with me, so I am prepared with any evidence. My question still stands though: Is he able to? If so, how if all he has is his own version of what happened?

And yes, I didn't hire a licensed professional. But I did have a pretty thorough vetting process, including calling all the references he gave me, not paying anything down since I was paying for material, and snapping a picture of his current driver's license for ID verification. I could have ran a background check (which I will do next time), but the work was pretty minimal, so I didn't see the need at the time.

Thanks again for the help!

Originally posted by @Peter Kozlowski :

Hey guys,

Thanks for the fast responses. A few of you mention I should pay him the $75, but I don't feel like I should, in principle, because he did not do more than half the work upon closer inspection after I paid him, and the work that he did do wasn't of acceptable quality. 

It just doesn't seem right that he should be able to successfully file a lien against my property solely on the basis of his own unsubstantiated claims. I've kept all my emails and texts saved with him, including the contract he signed with me, so I am prepared with any evidence. My question still stands though: Is he able to? If so, how if all he has is his own version of what happened?

And yes, I didn't hire a licensed professional. But I did have a pretty thorough vetting process, including calling all the references he gave me, not paying anything down since I was paying for material, and snapping a picture of his current driver's license for ID verification. I could have ran a background check (which I will do next time), but the work was pretty minimal, so I didn't see the need at the time.

Thanks again for the help!

A builder once threatened me with the same, to the amount of $10K, the final payment of a $130K project. He screwed the roof up, didn't do it properly and it looked awful. He begged for the money, then threatened me with the lien. A call to the local court house (I recommend you do the same) revealed that the contractor would have to swear on oath that he had completed the work (that would be perjury). Since he hadn't completed the work to standard, I texted him something along the lines of go ahead and get your lien. A lie under oath is perjury. 

I never heard another word from the pr*ck, and still have the $$$. And sold the house, no lien filed. 

Wonder if your genius of a contractor knows what perjury is?

 

Hahah thanks for the story Michael. Something tells me he doesn't, but he'd still lie regardless. Either way, let him try. I'll fight him tooth and nail. Even if it's only $75, pieces of s*** like him shouldn't have the right to go after homeowners like me willy nilly without some sort of recourse on my end.

Originally posted by @Peter Kozlowski :
Hey guys,
Thanks for the fast responses. A few of you mention I should pay him the $75, but I don't feel like I should, in principle, because he did not do more than half the work upon closer inspection after I paid him, and the work that he did do wasn't of acceptable quality. 

You can be rich or be right, which do you want? 

It just doesn't seem right that he should be able to successfully file a lien against my property solely on the basis of his own unsubstantiated claims. I've kept all my emails and texts saved with him, including the contract he signed with me, so I am prepared with any evidence. My question still stands though: Is he able to? If so, how if all he has is his own version of what happened?

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." Ecclesiastes 9:11 

The world isn't neither fair nor just so what is "right" has no bearing on the situation. This idea that you'll fight it on the principle is simply a crutch to justify you making a non rational decision. The answer to your original question is yes he can do this and if he does, your property will have another lien on it. If you go to sell without doing anything, the lien will be paid off from the proceeds of your sale. 

And yes, I didn't hire a licensed professional. But I did have a pretty thorough vetting process, including calling all the references he gave me, not paying anything down since I was paying for material, and snapping a picture of his current driver's license for ID verification. I could have ran a background check (which I will do next time), but the work was pretty minimal, so I didn't see the need at the time.

All that matters is the first sentence. You didn't hire a licensed contractor so now you don't have all that much leverage over him. The outcome shows that your "pretty through vetting process" has been weighted, measured, and found wanting.

Even if the cost of your time is $15 bucks, anything over 5 hours is a waste. Looking at it this from his point of view, he is an unlicensed handyman who probably lives job to job and has most likely already spent the other 50% of the deal. He is in a cash crunch and needs this for something. 

If I was in your shoes, I'd meet with the guy in person with a crisp $50 dollar bill in one hand and a mechanics lien release in the other. He signs the release he gets the $50 bucks.  5 to 1 odds he won't be able to pass up the sight of cold hard cash. 


 

@Peter Kozlowski he just might be able to file a lien because he doesn’t need a license to do handyman level work under $500 etc. You didn’t even let him try to finish the work. It’s obvious you both are a perfect match. You willing to lose your piece of mind and pay the guy to focus on more valuable things, and him thinking about how he can threaten you to get $75. This is so ridiculous. I’m surprised you can even pay someone $75 to come out and do anything on your house, let alone show up.

@Peter Kozlowski this “contractor” is the most professional contractor I’ve ever heard of. He writes up a literal contract with you for $125. Agrees on a progress payment of 50%.. I can imagine him coming out, bidding the job.. going home and typing up a proposal, hoping he gets the contract. Did you sign? He comes out and thinks he’s finished the work and hopes to get paid the same day (ridiculous since it all needs to be inspected in detail). He expects to get a check in the mail? Then you find details that were not to par when you take a closer look the next day. You tell him it’s unsatisfactory, and he tries to come back out and fix... Calling his impatience, you let him know his attitude was bad and he should not return. At this bid price, the quality should meet all your expectations! Did he request a deposit?? What is the scope of work, and were there any change orders, inspections... or employees involved? I hope he included overhead and the materials in that price! This contractor sounds like a perfect “Pursuit of Happiness” scenario, where he just can’t win. Spends $25 on gas round trip each time he comes out because he can’t afford to live in your area (typical). Hope his next job is a success because if he keeps going this way, he ain’t going to make it in CA at those rent prices!

Originally posted by @Peter Kozlowski :

Hey all,

I hired this contractor to do some balcony work on my property. I paid him 50% of the final price as agreed in our contract for the completion of 50% of the work. 

However, it turns out the work was of low quality upon closer inspection (he pressured me to pay him immediately after the work was done because he ‘had somewhere to be’ - my mistake to acquiesce), so when he texted me to ask about coming back and finishing the work, I told him I didn’t want him to return to finish the job. I told him I didn’t like his impatient attitude when I was inspecting his work and the quality of his work was ultimately unacceptable as grounds for my letting him go.

Whereupon he insists I still owe him $75 because he actually completed more than 50% of the work the first time around. I told him politely that I will not be paying him that money. 

He then told me he will be filing a contractor’s lien against my property for his ‘missing wages.’ I told him to go ahead, as I will be disputing everything he says that cannot be substantiated by evidence. 

My question to you all is: Can he actually successfully do this if I, the homeowner, dispute his claims and he doesn’t have the evidence to do so? My first thought was of course not, but then again I don’t have the experience many of you do in real estate, so I might be missing something. 

Any help would be mightily appreciated!

 All this over $75?  I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.  It would cost him more to file a lien than what he is owed!  Tell him in a written letter or email that he is terminated from the project for poor workmanship and not allowed back on the property.  If he has tools on the premises you will arrange a time for him to come back and retrieve them.  

If it will give you some peace of mind offer to pay him half of what he claims he is owed in exchange for a lien waiver.

This is a common tactic that contractors use to scare people with.  A mechanic's lien has no teeth without a lis pendens (an attached lawsuit) and unless you are contacted by a lawyer there's little to be concerned about.  Unfortunately I am speaking from experience on this one...albeit from the other side of the fence.  

Originally posted by @David Tyrawa :

Wouldn't worry much if it was me. It's going to cost him 500 plus to get an attorney to file a lien anyway. Sounds like you hired a fly by night guy( no offense) in future spend a little more and get us licensed and insured guys and headaches shouldn't be there

you don't need an attorney to file a lien you can do them yourself there would be filing fee's though. 

 

Originally posted by @Steven Lowe :
Originally posted by @Peter Kozlowski:

Hey all,

I hired this contractor to do some balcony work on my property. I paid him 50% of the final price as agreed in our contract for the completion of 50% of the work. 

However, it turns out the work was of low quality upon closer inspection (he pressured me to pay him immediately after the work was done because he ‘had somewhere to be’ - my mistake to acquiesce), so when he texted me to ask about coming back and finishing the work, I told him I didn’t want him to return to finish the job. I told him I didn’t like his impatient attitude when I was inspecting his work and the quality of his work was ultimately unacceptable as grounds for my letting him go.

Whereupon he insists I still owe him $75 because he actually completed more than 50% of the work the first time around. I told him politely that I will not be paying him that money. 

He then told me he will be filing a contractor’s lien against my property for his ‘missing wages.’ I told him to go ahead, as I will be disputing everything he says that cannot be substantiated by evidence. 

My question to you all is: Can he actually successfully do this if I, the homeowner, dispute his claims and he doesn’t have the evidence to do so? My first thought was of course not, but then again I don’t have the experience many of you do in real estate, so I might be missing something. 

Any help would be mightily appreciated!

 All this over $75?  I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.  It would cost him more to file a lien than what he is owed!  Tell him in a written letter or email that he is terminated from the project for poor workmanship and not allowed back on the property.  If he has tools on the premises you will arrange a time for him to come back and retrieve them.  

This is a common tactic that contractors use to scare people with.  A mechanic's lien has no teeth without a lis pendens (an attached lawsuit) and unless you are contacted by a lawyer there's little to be concerned about.  Unfortunately I am speaking from experience on this one...albeit from the other side of the fence.  

its does cloud title.. and just for the WIW file.. in Oregon properly executed mech liens become super liens and jump in front of the banks or any other loans on the property.. smart contractors in Oregon rarely get stiffed.  like what happens when liens in other markets just go on title in time.. So if the person does not need to sell or refi they just sit there and wallow. 

 

@Jay Hinrichs I filed one once in CA, and the homeowner did surface due to his mortgage being effected. I filed it myself. State License board said it could cost a lot more to follow through in court with a lien though. I ended up dropping it because I didn't want to go to court after being threatened with a lawsuit. I don't think it would be worth going to court over for anything less than $10k. The homeowner got his free work in exchange for me dropping the lien. A family member looked this guy up and he had lawsuits with family members, contractors etc. Unfortunately, there are people out there using people to gain at their loss. I still don't know how expensive it really would be to follow through with a mechanics lien in a lawsuit.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer:

@Jay Hinrichs I filed one once in CA, and the homeowner did surface due to his mortgage being effected. I filed it myself. State License board said it could cost a lot more to follow through in court with a lien though. I ended up dropping it because I didn’t want to go to court after being threatened with a lawsuit. I don’t think it would be worth going to court over for anything less than $10k. The homeowner got his free work in exchange for me dropping the lien. A family member looked this guy up and he had lawsuits with family members, contractors etc. Unfortunately, there are people out there using people to gain at their loss. I still don’t know how expensive it really would be to follow through with a mechanics lien in a lawsuit.

 Usually anything under $15K isn't worth pursuing because you could easily spend that in legal fees before receiving a dime.  You are better off settling out of court most of the time.  

There are some people out there that operate this way--hiring a contractor knowing they are going to stiff them at the end of the project.  Unfortunately legal remedies take a long time, cost a lot of money, and the outcomes are hardly guaranteed.  Best thing to do is to be careful about the projects you take on, make sure the terms are spelled out in the beginning, and that expectations are realistic, otherwise it will lead to problems later on.   

Thanks for all the help, guys. Stiffing a contractor is the last thing I want to do. I'm a firm believer in karma, so I understand that if I did that, it'd come back to bite me in spades. 

With this guy, however, he was truly in the wrong. I've had contractors before who do good work, everything works out, they get their money, and a good reference from me. Maybe if he hadn't aggressively pushed me like he did in the end, and given me thirty minutes or so to inspect the work, it could've worked out. But the way he did it was totally unprofessional. I feared for my safety! Someone like that I definitely didn't want to come back, and that's why I let him go.

Yes, I could have paid him the $75, but I was through getting pushed around. I've had contractors who pushed me around before, and I paid them just to have peace of mind. But I had enough with this guy. No more.

There is an old saying (sometimes the juice isn't worth the squeeze), especially if the lemon is bad.

Sometimes the experience gained in and of itself is what holds the most value. 


$75, really?

when you sell the house, you pay $75 more. Not an issue. Just refute it first.

Hey Daniel,

$75 isn’t much I know, but it just doesn’t seem right that he could successfully place a lien on my property because he CLAIMS I didn’t pay him. That’s my point. 

Originally posted by @Jonathan R McLaughlin :

@Peter Kozlowski I was under the impression you had to be a licensed contractor (in MA) to file any Lein. Am I off base in this?

At 75 bucks it doesn’t matter what you do. He isn’t going to file.

yes I think your correct.. you could always counter with I am turning you into the contractors board for contracting with out a license. turn the table.s

 

Originally posted by @Peter Kozlowski :

Thanks for all the help, guys. Stiffing a contractor is the last thing I want to do. I'm a firm believer in karma, so I understand that if I did that, it'd come back to bite me in spades. 

With this guy, however, he was truly in the wrong. I've had contractors before who do good work, everything works out, they get their money, and a good reference from me. Maybe if he hadn't aggressively pushed me like he did in the end, and given me thirty minutes or so to inspect the work, it could've worked out. But the way he did it was totally unprofessional. I feared for my safety! Someone like that I definitely didn't want to come back, and that's why I let him go.

Yes, I could have paid him the $75, but I was through getting pushed around. I've had contractors who pushed me around before, and I paid them just to have peace of mind. But I had enough with this guy. No more.


Good grief. All this over $75.

Sigh. I have much to say on the subject, but am getting better at holding my tongue on the internet - lol.

I say pay the damn $75 and if quality is important to you, pony up and pay for it next time.

You get what you pay for. I charge more than $75 to show up. 

@Peter Kozlowski

Per a local Missouri law firm I’ve used in the past for real estate:

To preserve its ability to file a mechanic’s lien, an original contractor must provide the property owner with a written notice prior to payment and at one of the following junctures:

  • when the contract is signed;
  • when materials are first delivered;
  • when work commences; or
  • when the first invoice is delivered.

The notice must be written in 10-point bold font, and state:

NOTICE TO OWNER

FAILURE OF THIS CONTRACTOR TO PAY THOSE PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES TO COMPLETE THIS CONTRACT CAN RESULT IN THE FILING OF A MECHANIC'S LIEN ON THE PROPERTY WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF THIS CONTRACT PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 429, RSMO. TO AVOID THIS RESULT YOU MAY ASK THIS CONTRACTOR FOR “LIEN WAIVERS” FROM ALL PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES FOR THE WORK DESCRIBED IN THIS CONTRACT. FAILURE TO SECURE LIEN WAIVERS MAY RESULT IN YOUR PAYING FOR LABOR AND MATERIAL TWICE

Compliance with this notice provision is a condition precedent to the creation of a valid mechanic’s lien by an original contractor.