Menu
Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>Delaware law question. A contractor is threatening to file a mechanics lien on my 90 year old mother's property and told her he will take her property which she owns free and clear. There is an original signed contract to do the work for $15,000 and most of it has been paid. He has completed only half the work and he is saying she now owes him another $11,000 for additional work that was done. He never submitted anything in writing prior to doing the alleged additional work but simply said he needed to do additional work. Can we file a defense to the mechanics lien and get a hearing in Delaware?

Delaware law question. A contractor is threatening to file a mechanics lien on my 90 year old mother's property and told her he will take her property which she owns free and clear. There is an original signed contract to do the work for $15,000 and most of it has been paid. He has completed only half the work and he is saying she now owes him another $11,000 for additional work that was done. He never submitted anything in writing prior to doing the alleged additional work but simply said he needed to do additional work. Can we file a defense to the mechanics lien and get a hearing in Delaware?

DelawareConstruction ContractMechanics LienRight to Lien

See above. I'm trying to assist my mother in this situation.

1 reply

Jul 19, 2018
There are a couple different subquestions contained within your question, including: 1) whether additional work was appropriately performed absent specific written agreement; 2) whether such additional work gives rise to a mechanics lien; 3) whether any mechanics lien would be valid; 4) whether any mechanics lien could result in the taking of property; and 5) any potential defenses to a mechanics lien.

Let's tackle these situations one at a time:

1. Delaware allows claims (breach of contract claims, and mechanics lien claims) to be initiated pursuant to verbal or implied contracts. Generally speaking, though a written contract makes things clearer and is preferred, the lack of a written agreement is insufficient to deny a subsequent claim.

2. In Delaware, mechanics liens are allowable to "any person having performed or furnished labor or material, or both, to an amount exceeding $25 in or for the erection, alteration or repair of any structure, in pursuance of any contract, express or implied" [emphasis added]. This includes both oral contracts and implied contracts. Whether or not such an agreement existed is likely something that would need to be determined by the court.

3. The validity of a mechanics lien is a question that is nearly impossible to determine from any distance removed from the situation. Strict compliance with the form, timing, service, filing, and other requirements is mandatory due to the nature of the remedy. The fact that the work was not performed pursuant to a written contract is likely not enough to invalidate any potential lien claim, but the failure to strictly follow all of the statutory requirements might. Since, in this case, it appears a lien hasn't yet been filed, there is no way for you to determine whether or not the requirements have been or will be met.

4. In the event that a valid mechanics lien is filed - which is unknown at this point - the enforcement of the lien could result in the taking of the property if the debt couldn't be satisfied through another method. The power of a mechanics lien is that it is a security in the improved property itself, such that the property could be foreclosed on and sold to satisfy the debt. However, any amount determined to be due could just be paid to escape that consequence. (Again this is only to the extent the lien is valid, and judgment is rendered).

5. Since the lien has not yet been filed, there is nothing currently to be done to defend against it. Conceivably one may be able to file a motion for a declaratory judgment that a mechanics lien is inappropriate and attempt to stop the filing that way, but that is a stretch. In Delaware, a mechanics lien initiates a court action, and just like any court action the defendant has an opportunity to defend him/herself and his/her side of the story. If a lien is filed, the property owner has the opportunity to show it is improper.
0 likes

Add your answer or comment

Not the answer you were looking for? Check out other Construction Contract topics or ask your own question