Can I file a lien against someone’s house?

2 weeks ago

I was contracted for a large scale multi-destination move for $15,000. The contract was agreed to and signed on 10 February to be completed by 9 March. I received a deposit of $6,000 on 10 February. A couple of days later, he decided to change the terms of the contract, which we agreed would cost extra. I received an additional check for $2,500 on 14 February.

I completed the work as agreed upon on 9 March. I received a letter of appreciation from the owner (seller) of the building on 12 March. The reason for the move is the building is under contract to be sold. My client was a tenant and the new owner was not extending leases. I completed the move and sent the final invoice.

A condition of my contract was the form of the final payment. It was to be a transfer from one of his online stores (Amazon) to my checking account. The final payment was due on 10 March. On 14 March, I received a notification of the transfer of money from Amazon of $0.00.

I previously worked as operations for my client’s company. His company shrank over the period of a year while I worked for him before I quit. When I sent him the invoice for the final payment, he sent me an invoice for over $57,000. This came with a Microsoft Word style invoice and 800+ pages of a spreadsheet with dollar amounts, dates, and short descriptions. There was no contract for the invoice he sent me. I do have a signed employee agreement for the time I worked for him.

On 21 February, before the completion of the contract, he retained a lawyer because his landlord had their lawyer issue him a letter notifying him to vacate the premises. His lawyer told me the contract had been paid in full, which is obviously not true.

In turn, I retained a lawyer to ensure final payment and receive better guidance for completing the contract, since he continued to try and change the terms without additional signed documentation. Once my retainer was spent, I thought it best to evaluate my options.

The owner of the building (seller) said filing a claim of lien on the building since my client is no longer a tenant would be futile. I would like to file a lien against the real property of my client. He owns a house in NC and has a store in the mall in NC which holds inventory. I just need to know what my options are and the best way to apply the most pressure to him so he will settle on the invoice and I can focus on other work.

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
202 reviews

Mechanics liens are generally only available to those who have performed some physical improvement to the project property. And, while moving may be a valuable service, that typically won’t give rise to any lien rights. Further, regarding what property can be liened – mechanics liens will only attach to the project property, and not to the owner’s other property they may own.

With that being said, there are options outside of the mechanics lien process that could help to get paid.

Recovery options outside of the mechanics lien process

For one, sending a demand letter can be useful. Demand letters make legal threats and put a deadline on when payment must be made. So, they apply some pressure to try and get the other party to pay. Though, when the other party has a lawyer already, a demand letter might not be as effective to scare them into paying what’s owed.

Alternatively, actually proceeding with some legal claim could do the trick. And, where a customer has refused to pay what’s owed, then a claim like breach of contract would likely be available. Lawyers and traditional litigation can be costly, but small claims court could be useful for getting paid. In North Carolina, claimants can pursue debts up to $10,000. Since claims can be brought there without an attorney, it should be cheaper and easier to make a claim there. If a claim will be brought – it’d be crucial to have documentation proving everything: the contract, any adjustments, proof of work performed, proof of what was paid, etc.

Finally, keep in mind that sending a debt to collections might be an option, too. You can learn about top collection agencies, here: Top Collection Agencies for Construction Companies.

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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