Photo of a contractor in a mask and hard hat sledgehammering through a brick and plaster wall

Popular Magnolia Network home renovation show Home Work has been pulled from its network’s lineup after a litany of allegations from unhappy project owners. According to a recent report, show hosts Candis and Andy Meredith may be responsible for issues including poor workmanship, going over budget, nonpayment of subcontractors, and work being done without proper contracts.

One couple, Kelly and Mark Jensen, claimed that they had signed up in 2019 for a basement remodel to cost $60,000. However, nearly two years later, the project hadn’t been completed, and they allege that they’ve already had to pay $85,000 for the project — noting that the Merediths had not fully paid subcontractors.

Another couple, Jeff and Teisha Hawley, claimed that the Merediths overshot their proposed budget of $45,000 by an additional $35,000–$40,000. “They had blown through our entire budget just in demo,” the Hawleys said. “That just kind of took our breath away.”

The issue of going over budget is important for contractors and project owners alike to understand. Having detailed contracts and well-kept documentation is paramount to protecting payment on all sides of projects, and that’s something that many of these project owners failed to do: “I will take some blame in this,” said homeowner Aubry Bennion of her project with the Merediths. “I operated outside of a signed contract.”

Lacking a contract puts a number of other issues on the table for all sides. For Bennion’s project, this ended up meaning that the project moved at a pace she hadn’t intended — with information hard to come by. “Everything lagged, everything was open-ended,” Bennion noted. “Every time I’d ask for scope, schedule, budget, any information, it was just pushed down the line.”

Even though the project lacked a contract between the general contractor and the project owners, this may not hold back the power of lien rights on behalf of the contractors and subcontractors involved.

 Lien laws in 37 states allow contractors to file a lien even if they don’t have a written contract, and only six states (Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) explicitly require a written contract in order to keep lien rights on a project.

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In a case like with the Merediths, even though a project has gone over budget, the lack of a contract wouldn’t impact the value of a lien despite what was verbally agreed.

Construction lawyer Alex Benarroche puts it plainly: “Although there’s some state-by-state variation, the general rule of thumb is that lien rights can secure the reasonable value of labor, services, and materials provided and unpaid.”

Lawyer Reese Henderson additionally notes that any claims that a contractor would make could have to be proven in court.

 “The contractor can record a lien for the ‘reasonable value’ which will likely be asserted as the claimed contract price, and if the lien goes to court, it will be up to the judge or jury to decide if the reasonable value claimed is, in fact, the reasonable value of the labor, materials, and services furnished,” Henderson says.

Homeowners who have worked with the Merediths have also noted that what work was accomplished in their projects was allegedly often below the standard they wanted.

“You could tell that [the contractors] weren’t adept or familiar with flooring, because my wife had to correct them,” said the Hawleys. “She would call Candis [Meredith] and say, ‘Hey, I think they’re laying it wrong,’ and sure enough [they were]. This happened two or three times.”

When contacted, the Merediths acknowledged they could have done a better job. “I do think we took on too many projects at once,” Candis Meredith said. “We were feeling very overwhelmed and doing our best to communicate, but I can understand how, when it’s your home, that feels frustrating when things take longer.”

One thing with this, however, is what recourse homeowners have for this poor quality of work, and how it could affect the contractors.

It’s important to keep in mind that work quality doesn’t matter when it comes to lien rights — if they aren’t paid, contractors have a right to file a mechanics lien on a project regardless of its quality and the project owner’s satisfaction.