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How can I file a lien on a public project? and if not possible, what are the other options are to recover payment

MichiganBond ClaimsConstruction ContractLien Priority

We are the main contractor hired by our client, but based on Level set research it looks likie this is a public project. I received this email for the current lien we are trying to file. Ref. #397-6887 This is Liz reaching out from the Levelset Support team! Our researcher sent you a message regarding your mechanics lien for your job Oakland University/RFP Katke Cousins on 10/12/2020, and that message hasn't been responded to yet. Would you mind taking a look at this today? Here is what she said: "Hi again - I've been able to find a legal description, but it looks like this may be a public project. We don't offer a product for situations where you were hired by the owner on a public job, but you can ask a construction lawyer for more info on the best way to proceed. You can do that for free here: or in the Ask A Construction Lawyer section on the Summary page of this project. Let me know how you'd like to proceed, and if we don't hear back, we'll continue processing this as is. Thanks!" Please let me know how you would like to proceed -- You can respond directly to this email, live chat with us from your account, or give us a call at 504-708-1287. We will continue processing as is unless we hear back within one business day.

5 replies

Oct 20, 2020
If this is a public project, you will not be able to pursue a lien. You may, however, may be able to pursue a claim against the bond associated with this project. Feel free to call my office, at 517-796-1444, or reach out to me directly via email, to see if we might be able to assist your further. Bruce Inosencio 517-796-1444 Inosencio Fisk
3 people found this helpful
Oct 21, 2020
Thank you so much Bruce, we searched in their web page, and based on this link we were under the impression that the project was private
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Oct 21, 2020
I will call you today to learn more about the process of a claim against the bond
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Oct 21, 2020

Michigan law does not allow construction liens against public property.  

In place of a lien, for public projects, Michigan has two payment bond statutes. One for highway projects (MDOT) and one for all other public projects.  

It's unclear from your question whether you are a general contractor, who is working directly for Oakland University or whether you are a subcontractor. If you are the GC, with a direct contract with Oakland University, you would have furnished the payment bond and so making a claim against your own bond is a non-starter. Your solution, in that case, would be a breach of contract claim against the University. 

If you are a subcontractor, you may have rights under the GC's payment bond. You'll need to start by requesting a copy of the payment bond from the GC and the University. The University (Owner) is supposed to provide a copy upon request. The payment bond is a public document, but you should not have to go through the University's FOIA procedure, which can take weeks. Payment bonds should be readily available and provided without a problem. 

Once you have the payment bond, you'll need to send a demand for payment (bond claim) to the surety, copy to the Owner (Oakland University) and GC, by certified mail. The demand for payment is a letter identifying who you are, what work you furnished and to whom, and how much you're owed. You also need to include, somewhere in the letter, a specific demand for payment. "In reliance on the payment bond, {name} demands payment in the principal amount of ${amount you're owed}, plus interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees." 

If you would like to discuss this further, I'd be happy to talk and make sure you're headed in the right direction. I can also assist you with the payment bond claim. 

Peter Cavanaugh

(248) 543-8320

2 people found this helpful
Oct 23, 2020

If it is a federal project, there should be a payment bond (called a 'Miller Act' bond) for you to make a claim against. If it is a state or local municipality job, there should likewise be a "Little Miller Act' payment bond. The next steps would be to contact the appropriate agency of the public owner to obtain the bond information, and make a claim against the bond (think of it similar to an insurance claim, but much stronger!). You do need to be careful you are within the time requirements of your particular jurisidction. Federal law (for federal projects) requires a notice to the gc within 90 days of your last day of work, and a lawsuit to be filed within one year of your last day of work.

Please feel free to contact me directly if I can be of any further assistance.

Good luck! 

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