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At the end of 2021, Colorado suffered its most destructive fire ever, with over 1,000 structures destroyed or damaged by the Marshall Fire in Boulder County. However, as the area has begun to rebuild and recover from the damage done, some Boulder County residents are finding that the recovery process has its own hurdles — and construction payment disputes are already popping up.

After hiring a restoration company to fix the smoke and fire damage done to her home, Boulder County resident Jen Kaaoush ran into what she considered to be shoddy workmanship. “After a few days, the smoke smell went away and we thought, ‘okay, it’s going to be fine,’” said Kaaoush. “I don’t think we had any idea what we were in for to remediate a home properly.”

Allegedly, environmental tests showed that the work done on the property hadn’t properly fixed the damage.

 “Turns out a lot of the ways they did things were not the way to do things to remediate a home with smoke damage,” Kaaoush claimed. 

After refusing to pay the $34,000 bill she was served with, however, Kaaoush found her home facing a mechanics lien.

Filing a mechanics lien holds up a property and immediately puts pressure on the property owner to find a remedy for the dispute. Either the claim has to be paid, or the party on the receiving end of the lien has to file an action to challenge it.

Though disputed workmanship can be a damaging hindrance to a mechanics lien if the dispute goes to court, the lien still maintains its power. 

As Levelset’s Scott Wolfe Jr. points out, “proving that workmanship is below par will require expensive and extended litigation, as these types of issues often require a full-blown trial.”

Scott Wolfe

Scott Wolfe

17 years experience
484 articles
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Filing a mechanics lien holds up a property and immediately puts pressure on the property owner to find a remedy for the dispute. Either the claim has to be paid, or the party on the receiving end of the lien has to file an action to challenge it.

Of course, the power of the lien doesn’t cover every situation. Construction attorney Matt Viator notes that even though poor or disputed workmanship won’t hold back a lien being filed, it “does not necessarily mean the filed lien will be valid — and it doesn’t mean that a contractor is off the hook for poor workmanship.” 

Matt Viator

Matt Viator

5 years experience
181 articles
3,647 answers

Workmanship claims most often need to be validated in a full trial, as these claims usually aren’t dealt with in mechanics lien removal proceedings.

Arguments for poor workmanship may end up helping the party who’s had a lien filed against their property. “If filed, it would just mean that the property owner would have to fight the lien and raise the workmanship issues themselves in an effort to combat the filed lien,” Viator continued.

Learn more: Can I File A Lien If My Workmanship Is In Dispute?

There are other elements that could make any mechanics lien in Colorado invalid, as well. Unlike most other states, when filing a lien Colorado requires an affidavit of properly serving the notice of intent on the property owner to be included alongside the lien claim itself.

Additionally, a fully completed and executed Lien Statement has to be included with the notice, meaning that the lien has to be fully prepared before sending the notice. Due to this, it’s necessary for a lien claimant to make sure that the notice is served more than 10 days before the lien deadline so that the lien is filed in time — otherwise, the lien may not be valid.

As far as the Marshall situation goes, Kaaoush has started a group of survivors of the Marshall fire in order to advocate for the needs of other homeowners who may be in similar situations, noting that “Everybody is fighting these individual battles with insurance and contractors” and pointing towards the possibility that survivors could see a lot of similar disputes in the near future.

According to a preliminary report from Boulder County in January 2022, initial data estimated that 127 structures were damaged and not fully destroyed in the fire countywide, putting forth plenty of opportunities for these disputes to arise in the restoration process. 

There may be implications for Colorado’s legal process as well — State Representative Mike Weissman noted that the state legislature may consider changes to better mediate disputes in situations like the Marshall disaster.

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