Filing a mechanics lien is a right guaranteed by law that is available for most individuals and companies that work on construction projects in all 50 states. This includes the hard-working folks that make up the Wisconsin construction industry. This article is a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to file a Wisconsin mechanics lien.
Why File a Lien in the First Place?
Nobody likes a problem job, and payment problems surely aren’t ideal for anyone involved. Worse yet, everyone hates having to file a mechanics lien. Still, from time to time, you might find yourself in a situation where filing a lien has become necessary. When that time comes, it’s best to be prepared. Let’s take a look at how to file a Wisconsin mechanics lien.
Wait! Did You Sign a Lien Waiver?
Before getting into how the mechanics lien process works in Wisconsin, we have to cover another project payment document that typically comes well before a lien would ever be considered: the lien waiver.
Lien waivers aren’t always valid in every state, but Wisconsin isn’t kidding around when it comes to lien waivers. If you signed one, you’re likely stuck with it under any circumstance. So, consider this before you take the steps necessary to file a lien claim.
Who Is Entitled to File a Wisconsin Mechanics Lien?
When it comes to lien rights in Wisconsin, the construction industry can breathe a little sigh of relief because Wisconsin mechanics lien law is very generous when it comes to who is protected. But, there are still some very important steps that must be considered before unpaid parties can send that lien claim on its way.
Notice May Be Required in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has two different notice requirements that must be considered when you go to file a lien: the Preliminary Notice and Notice of Intent to Lien. These notices are required by almost all parties.
Wisconsin Preliminary Notice
Hopefully, you’ve already provided preliminary notice near the start of the project. The deadlines are as follows
- Prime contractors must send a Notice of Lien Rights by Prime Contractor Form within 10 days from the start of the project;
- Subcontractors must send a Subcontractor Identification Notice Form within 60 days of first furnishing labor and/or materials to a construction project to preserve its lien rights.
If notice is required and not sent, you may be left without lien rights.
Wisconsin Notice of Intention
In Wisconsin, all claimants must serve a Notice of Intention to File Claim of Lien upon the property owner before filing the Claim of Lien. The Notice of Intent to Lien must be delivered at least 30 days before you file the actual lien claim. That means sending a Notice of Intent to Lien requires some planning, and it’s important to get the wheels in motion well before the lien deadline.
When Is the Wisconsin Mechanics Lien Deadline?
The deadline to file a Wisconsin mechanics lien is 6 months from the day labor or material was last provided to the project. But again – the mechanics lien must be filed at least 30 days after you filed a Notice of Intent to Lien. This may feel like overkill, but it’s important! Wisconsin mechanics lien claimants have a lot to keep track of.
What Information Must Be Included in the Lien Claim?
Wisconsin has specific requirements when it comes to what must be included in a lien claim. The following must all be included:
- An attached copy of both the Preliminary Notice and the Notice of Intent to Lien (both given in compliance with the statutory requirements)
- A “statement of the contract or demand upon which the claim is founded”
- The name of the owner
- The name of the claimant and any assignee
- The last date that the claimant provided labor or materials to the project
- A legal property description
- The amount the claim is for
- Any other material facts related to the claim
Finally, the lien claim must be signed by the claimant or their attorney. There is no need to notarize a mechanics lien in Wisconsin in order for it to be valid, so after you have included the required information you’re ready to actually file the lien.
How to File
Once you’ve completed the lien form, you’re ready to send it on its way. First, you must file the lien claim in the office of the Clerk of Circuit Court of the county where the property is located. After you’ve filed the lien claim, you must serve the property owner with a copy of the mechanics lien within 30 days from the date the lien was filed. That’s it!
Timeline for Enforcing a Wisconsin Mechanics Lien
When it comes to filing a valid lien claim in Wisconsin, a majority of the work goes into following all of the proper notice requirements as well as making sure that your lien claim contains all of the required information. After you’ve filed your lien claim and provided the owner with notice, you have 2 years to enforce the claim, if need be. That means a claimant has 2 years to try and negotiate payment before filing a lawsuit becomes necessary. If the 2-year window comes and goes without enforcement action, then the mechanics lien will expire.
Before Enforcing, Adding a Step Can Help You Get Paid!
When a mechanics lien is “enforced”, that means a lawsuit is filed. As much as everyone hates dealing with a mechanics lien claim, when a lawsuit is in play, the headache grows that much worse. Before resorting to a lien enforcement action, many claimants find that adding a step can really help force payment while still leaving the lawyers on the sidelines. We’re talking about sending a Notice of Intent to Foreclose. A Notice of Intent to Foreclose acts as a warning, and it shows that a claimant is serious about their lien claim. But even more, sending a Notice of Intent to Foreclose gives the paying party one last warning — one final opportunity — to resolve the payment issue before getting hauled into court.
Payment issues rarely make it this far along without being resolved, but even if they do, there’s almost always an opportunity for the parties to come together to work out a solution to the problem. And that’s what matters the most because, at the end of the day, everyone should be able to get paid the money they rightly earned.
WI Mechanics Lien Forms – Free Downloads