A customer refuses to pay for services we provided (exterior house painting and repair). Should we start with a liens notice?

10 months ago

Our customer claims she did not like the work we performed. We have all photographic evidence of the improvements performed on her house. Despite the fact we offered a discount to fix the parts she does not like, although there are unreasoning she is ignoring all notices for her amount due.

Do we send her a liens notice or file a case with the court or both? do we place a liens and wait for 10 days and then go to court or no reason to go to court if the liens is placed?

never had issues like this before

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
399 reviews

When unpaid on a New Hampshire construction project, and when all requests for payment are being ignored, filing a mechanics lien can be a powerful step. And, because a mechanics lien is such a powerful tool, even the threat of a lien filing can be enough to compel payment.

Let’s look at (1) recovering payment without a mechanics lien, and (2) the process for filing a New Hampshire lien.

Recovering payment without a lien
First, it’s worth mentioning that there are other ways to escalate a payment dispute – potentially leading to payment – other than first proceeding with a mechanics lien claim.

When a customer refuses to talk it out, sending a demand letter might help to get payment talks going. A payment demand letter puts the recipient on notice that nonpayment is not an option, and that certain legal consequences will be in play if payment isn’t made. More on that here: Demand Letters for Contractors – How To Write One That Gets You Paid.

For disputes that have gotten a little more serious, sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien might do the trick, too. A Notice of Intent to Lien is a little more serious than a demand letter – it identifies a specific legal threat (a mechanics lien) and states that if payment isn’t made, a mechanics lien is coming. So, it acts a bit like a warning shot. Plus, if payment still isn’t made, a claimant can always proceed with their lien claim. But, with a Notice of Intent to Lien, at least there’s an opportunity to avoid having to file a mechanics lien. More on that here: What Is a Notice of Intent to Lien and Should You Send One?.

Note that, often, a Notice of Intent to Lien will demand payment be made within 10 days (or some other time period) or else a lien will be filed. Though, this is not a statutory timeframe – and a claimant will not have to send a Notice of Intent to Lien then wait 10 days if that’s not how they’d like to proceed.

Filing a New Hampshire mechanics lien
Unlike the vast majority of other states, filing a New Hampshire mechanics lien means filing a lawsuit. Thus, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney if a mechanics lien must be filed – and it may even be required.

I’m not aware of a 10 day waiting period between filing a lien and filing suit – but, admittedly, I don’t have experience filing a New Hampshire mechanics lien/lawsuit. However, some other online resources I’ve found don’t seem to mention a 10 day notice period, either.

Here are some online resources that might be helpful when determining how to proceed with a New Hampshire lien filing:
(1) New Hampshire Court Service Center Guide to Mechanics Liens and Attachments
(2) Mechanics Lien Boot Camp by Nelson, kinder, Mosseau & Saturley, PC (starting around page 17)

But again – considering a New Hampshire mechanics lien entails a lawsuit, it would be wise to consult with a local construction attorney before proceeding, and it may even be necessary.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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