That's a fair question. To file an Alaska mechanics lien, a claimant does not need to have completed the project (or their portion thereof). Thus, if a project is not wholly complete and a contractor has not been paid, they very well could be within their rights to file a mechanics lien claim. In a situation where there is a dispute as to some of the work performed, an owner's natural reaction might be to withhold all payment to force their hand. Because Alaska does not have retainage or prompt payment laws, withholding payment might not be as dangerous as it is in other states, and interest penalties likely will not come immediately into play. However, in order to avoid a potential lien claim, it might be wise to release whatever amount of payment is not currently in dispute. If the contractor has not fulfilled all of their obligations under their contract, identifying where they have fallen short - with specific references to the contract - might be persuasive in convincing them to finish their duties. At this stage in the dispute, though, continuing to communicate and negotiate while taking a "wait and see" approach isn't a bad idea. If the dispute begins to boil over, if legal threats are made, or if a mechanics lien is filed, it might be time to bring in a local construction attorney to assess your situation and provide options for moving forward. They'll be able to look more into the specifics of your situation to determine what options might be most appropriate.