Hiring a contractor for a home remodel or repair can be at the same time a rewarding and troublesome experience. On one hand, finally updating that kitchen that looks twenty years overdue is an exciting notion. On the other, no two contractors are created equal, and often times it seems like most people make the wrong choice.
So what happens when a contractor does a subpar job on your home project, but still expects payment even though it may not be what you contracted for? Negotiating with the contractor to complete to expectations is one option and negotiating the price down another, but what happens when the two sides simply do not see eye to eye?
All too often in these cases, the contractor files a Mechanic’s Lien on the homeowner’s property. This legal mechanism offers the contractor a “security” in the home to compel payment by the homeowner. The lien works to effectively cloud the title in the home, and the law requires that the lien be resolved before the homeowner transfers title of the property.
This legal mechanism works as intended when a contractor successfully delivers on a project for a homeowner and that homeowner simply is not willing to pay. Other times however, innocent homeowners find themselves battling a lien when it was the contractor who did not meet the terms of the contract.
Although this is never something to look forward to, the filing of a lien does not automatically mean that you must pay the contractor what they demand. Lien law in Georgia can be quite complicated, and often times these liens are not filed in a manner in which they attach to the property. If you have recently become aware of a lien filed on your property, check to ensure that all of the following requirements have been satisfied through the filing of the lien:
- The builder provided the homeowner a preliminary lien notice within a specified number of days of beginning work or delivering materials
- The mechanics’ lien contained a minimum amount of detail about the debt (the amount, the scope of the services for which payment is due, the homeowner’s name and address, and so forth)
- The lien was filed with the local county court or registrar of deeds within 90 days of the completion of work.
If these elements are not satisfied, then the lien is void. If the lien filer did follow all of these steps, their work is still not done. In order to perfect the lien, or have it fully attach to the property, the filer must commence suit within 365 days of filing the lien. A failure to do so automatically voids the lien. Let’s assume that the contractor satisfies all of these steps, now what?
When a contractor commences suit to perfect the lien, it operates similarly to any other lawsuit. There is a complaint filed, and the defendant is allowed time to answer. Then commences discovery and the actual hearing. This presents both sides with another opportunity to settle the matter outside of court, however at this stage it is likely that both parties are entrenched in their position, and the contractor has paid considerable money in the enforcement of the lien by this stage.
By disputing the claim in the lien, you are effectively stating that what the contractor claims is not true. Was the quality of workmanship subpar, were the materials not the same as agreed upon, or did the contractor not meet other material provisions of the contract? It is advised that you retain all documentation pertaining to the contract and speak with a qualified attorney who can advocate on your behalf to protect your rights.
If you are experiencing a lien issue on your home and the contents of the lien are under dispute, give us a call! Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have many years’ experience in both filing and defending liens, and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.