Contractor sent notice of intent to lien the day after we paid him. What do I need to be concerned with?
Jan 30, 2020
What to be concerned with is a fairly expansive question, but it's not necessarily clear that the situation should cause concern at all.
When a Notice of Intent to Lien is received immediately after payment was made, it could easily be the case that the NOI was created and mailed prior to payment being made, and the receipt of payment is sufficient to result in the threatened lien never being filed. Since there is never immediate turn-around from deciding the send an NOI to actual receipt of that document by the property owner (or other interested party) it may be that the NOI and payment crossed in the mail.
It is always a good idea to open up a line of dialogue with a party who has sent an NOI, in order to understand where the disagreement is, or better understand the circumstances surrounding the payment dispute. Here, it is likely even more important so it can be determined whether the threat to lien the property remains after payment was supposedly made.
If payment is made and a contractor still seems intent upon filing a mechanics lien, it is likely that the amount of payment was deemed insufficient. That should be easy to figure out with a bit of communication.
It is also worth noting that specific timing and form requirements must be met in order for a mechanics lien to be valid and enforceable in Oklahoma. Original contractors (those with a direct contract with the owner) must file a lien statement within 4 months after the last date labor and/or materials were furnished to the property, and all other lien claimants (those without a direct contract with the owner) must file a lien statement within 90 days from the date labor or materials were last furnished to the property. And, if no money is actually due, there is no ability to file a valid and enforceable lien.
However, county recorders have little to no ability to police whether a lien will be valid prior to it being filed, so in some cases getting an invalid lien removed requires requesting the court to discharge it. In addition, the property owner may have a claim against the lien claimant for damages arising from the slander of title, including the attorneys' fees and costs incurred to get the lien removed.