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Can a subcontractor file for a lien even though contracted work was partially done?

TexasPayment DisputesRight to Lien

We were hired by the GC for concrete work. We hired a person to help us with the concrete work. Initial work and price agreed at $8500. Unfortunately, the scope increased and the said person increased his pricing to$11250 ,which was too much for us. He threatened to quit at an important time by trying to force our hand to paying him $1500 to proceed work the next day. This $1500 was not agreed upon initially. We felt we were taken advantage of and refused what he asked. He did not come back to finish the initial contract the next day forcing us to find another crew. He contacted us back saying he was owed $1500 for work done even though an initial $4000 was given already and threaten to put a lien. The GC has not paid in full neither the work has been completed entirely.

1 reply

Dec 26, 2018
That's a good question, and it's one we get pretty often here at the Construction Legal Center. First, it's important to establish the timeframe during which a subcontractor may file a mechanics lien. We discuss that topic and many others in this resource: Texas Lien and Notice FAQs. In Texas, a subcontractor must file their mechanics lien by 15th day of either the 3rd or 4th month after the last month during which they performed work and/or provided materials. Notice that unlike a general contractor, there is no requirement that a subcontractor wait until the work is complete. Granted, there are other deadlines and requirements that may apply and that could affect a claimant's ability to file their lien claim. For one, as discussed in the FAQs above, Texas has strict notice requirements. If notice is not sent as required, a valid mechanics lien cannot be filed. Further, regardless of whether notice and deadline requirements are followed - if payment isn't owed, then there is no right to lien. So, in a situation where a party has been paid in full but threatens a lien anyway, it could be worthwhile to fight back on that threat. Notifying a potential claimant that their claim would be fraudulent and discussing the potential penalties for fraudulent claims could go a long way to ward off a potential lien claim. Note, though, that even when there's a dispute as to what's owed or a dispute over workmanship, a claimant might be able to file a lien for the amount in dispute. Such a lien can be challenged, but actually preventing a lien filing based on such a disagreement could be tough sledding. Instead, reaching a resolution to the dispute amicably is likely the much more preferable (and much cheaper) option. Before the dispute festers too much, it might be a good idea to notify the GC of the potential issue so that they're not caught off guard by a potential lien claimant making claims against the project. They'll want to avoid a major dispute, too - and having an ally could be very helpful. Informing them of the situation could go a long way to avoiding a full blown fire on the job. If the issue persists and continues to barrel toward a lien claim or some other legal claim, it might be wise to consult a local construction attorney for advice on how to proceed.
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