The Kings County Supreme Court in New York recently refused to invalidate a mechanics lien even though it appeared pretty likely that the claim was filed late. The case underscores how difficult it is to challenge the validity of a lien claim through a motion.
Mechanics Lien That States Work Done Within 8 Month Filing Period Will Be Valid
In the Matter of Prospect Heights Rising Corp. (Queensboro Elec. Constr. Corp.), the Kings County Supreme Court decided a motion from the property owner seeking to have an electrical company’s mechanics lien claim invalidated.
All New York mechanics lien claims must indicate on the document the claimant’s last date of furnishing labor or materials to the project. In this matter, Queensboro Electric Construction Corporation disclosed a date that was within 8 months from when the lien claim was filed.
The property owner alleged that the date was not true, however, and had a stop work order from the county to prove it. The stop work order was issued nearly three months before the date disclosed by the lien claimant.
While this certainly presented a strong challenge to the last furnishing statement made by the lien claimant, the court refused to invalidate the claim, saying that “where a mechanic’s lien is not invalid on its face, it is not subject to summary discharge pursuant.”
Quite simply, the mechanics lien here was valid on its face because the claimant’s indicated last furnishing date was within the lien period.
Challenging Mechanics Lien in Motions v. In Foreclosure Action
The fact that lien challenges are difficult in New York isn’t new, and we even recently reported on this in the post: New York Exaggerated Lien Claims More Difficult To Prove After Recent Appeals Case. The reason is that the standard is very, very high for a mechanics lien challenge by motion to succeed.
Lien Law §19 provides the rule, which states in pertinent part:
Where it appears from the face of the notice of lien that the claimant has no valid lien by reason of the character of the labor or materials furnished and for which a lien is claimed, or where for any other reason the notice of lien is invalid by reason of failure to comply with the provisions of section nine of this article, or where it appears from the public records that such notice has not been filed in accordance with the provisions of section ten of this article, the owner or any other party in interest, may apply to the supreme court of this state, or to any justice thereof, or to the county judge of the county in which the notice of lien is filed, for an order summarily discharging of record the alleged lien…
The key phrase here is “[w]here it appears from the face of the notice of lien that the claimant has no valid lien claim…”
If the face of the lien itself has a glaring defect a property owner or prime contractor may be successful at filing a motion and getting the lien removed quickly. If, on the other hand, the face of the lien is compliant but there are underlying problems invaliding the claim, it’s likely those defects will not be addressed in summary fashion by the court and that a full trial will be necessary.
The courts have made it clear in long body of case law that a mechanics lien claim will not be tossed in a summary motion if there are facts that need to be proved.
So, in other words, in the Prospect Heights Rising Corp. matter before the Kings County Supreme Court, the court was not going to invalidate the mechanics lien claim because the claimant and the owner had a factual argument over when the last furnishing of work occurred. The owner may have a good argument with the stop work order as evidence, but the lien itself contains a statement indicating it was timely filed. The dispute must be resolved in a trial.
Are New York Mechanics Lien Claims Impossible To Challenge?
This leads us to the question asked in the post’s title: Are New York Mechanics Lien Claims Impossible to Challenge?
The answer is that they are extraordinarily difficult to challenge, but not impossible. When reviewing your chances at invalidating a mechanics lien claim you must forget about all of your arguments and opinions. Just look at the document. Does the mechanics lien document meet the statutory requirements. If the answer is yes, you’re heading to trial.
This high standard for mechanics lien challenges is great for lien claimants in the state. You can feel pretty confident that your mechanics lien claim will stand despite arguments about workmanship or how much you are owed.