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Can I cash a partial payment check?

Missouri

We are residential GCs. We emailed a homeowner Invoice 5 what we thought was going to be the final payment. But we found out homeowner purchased her own paint in a different color and had our men repaint the kitchen incurring more labor charges for us. I emailed homeowner a revised Invoice 5 with additional painting charge. Homeowner refuses to pay any of the charges on Invoice 5. I commenced preparing a just and true accounting and learned that homeowner had several extras that were never billed. Meanwhile, homeowner send us check for the original invoice amount with the memo referencing that document. The memo does not say paid in full. Can I cash the check and not lose my lien rights?

1 reply

Dec 14, 2018
That's a fair question, and whether or not to cash a check that could affect lien rights will ultimately be up to the holder of the check. Where a property owner has provided a check that they clearly intend to cover final payment, it might not be wise to cash that check - doing so would likely be seen as acceptance that partial payment would be accepted. On the other side of the coin, where a check is given without clear indication as to whether it's meant as final payment or just another partial payment, that can be a hard call to make. As simple as it sounds, and as uncomfortable as it may be - the best way to clear up the intention of the party who wrote the check is to ask them and to have them clarify that information in writing (preferably, on the check itself). Even in a situation where the party who cashes the check is "right" that the check doesn't constitute final payment - if the writer of the check believes that to be the case, then the dispute could result in a battle over the issue and take time and money that neither side wants to expend. Thus, before deciding to cash the check, it's probably worth getting clarity from the maker of that check (and having that designated on the memo line of the check). But, in a situation where a homeowner has specifically refused to pay an updated invoice, references the original invoice instead, and then attempts to make payment only for that original invoice - it would seem pretty clear that the owner does not intend to pay for the changes, and cashing the check that is made specifically for the original invoice could be seen as a waiver of the right to receive payment for other charges.
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