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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>I have a contractor who did not complete all scope of work and what was completed was extremely unsatisfactory. He has subsequently filed for a construction lien for the last 3rd of a payment owed. What can I do ?

I have a contractor who did not complete all scope of work and what was completed was extremely unsatisfactory. He has subsequently filed for a construction lien for the last 3rd of a payment owed. What can I do ?

New JerseyBonding Off LienMechanics LienRight to Lien

Hired to do a paver patio with outdoor bar. I had tremendous issues with the customer service and workmanship combined. The following issues came about and made this experience a nightmare:1) Priced the wrong pavers out even though given exact style and size, then charged more for ones we actually wanted. 2) Built Paver Bar without asking for dimensions, then was told it was too small and given dimensions. They still built it wrong size. They Blamed me-said I gave him wrong size- Tried to charge me to rebuild. Rebuild was done shoddy with large gaps, glue oozing out, stones unglued. 3) Used and manipulated hose bibb that wound up flooding my basement, -when brought to their attention that they could be at fault Foreman became irate and threatened me over phone. Owner called days later after I refused to speak to Foreman. Owner said his guys did not do it, He said, "I asked them and they said no" 4) Asked to do cement footings for a pavilion. Specs were given and footings came out un-level by 3-4 inches. Brought to attention of Foreman -He said owner says you still have to pay for this because the footings have been completed. I said absolutely not that is crazy because I had to spend over $200 in materials plus labor cost to get Pavilion plumb and level- also was forced to cut posts that I did not want to do . Also, Dropped cement all over pavers. 5) They were asked to run conduit for electrical. Electrician says they did not glue conduit joints allowing water to get in and they had to get different, more expensive wire.6) I told owner that I wanted to meet him at my house to go over issues that needed correction. He told me ok and wound up going to my house without permission and without me present making his own punch list. 7) Put in rocks and mulch with no weed barrier as per contract 8) Loose pavers 9) I told foreman/owner that I needed to be present for all future work and I could not take off - He became mad and threatened to bring case to attorney, blamed me for all problems, then Hungup on me. 10) Went to install refrigerator which was on premises for them to build around, discovered that the counter height was 33 inches as opposed to the contracted 36 inches. This meant that the refrigerator could not fit and granite countertop could not be laid. As a result of all of this, I sent a complaint to the BBB on June 14, 2019. I just received a certified letter indicating they are going to file a Construction Lien on my property for the unpaid balance. This to me, is a ridiculous scare tactic with no basis. What do I do?

1 reply

Jun 24, 2019
I'm sorry to hear about all of that - it sounds like a nightmare of a project. Before getting too far along, it's worth mentioning that a mechanics lien can be filed even when workmanship is in dispute. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the claim for payment is valid and that the filed lien will be enforceable. As always, the general mechanics lien rules apply.

One general rule to keep in mind is that mechanics liens may only be filed for payments owed for work performed that have gone unpaid. So if there isn't outstanding payment, then a lien claim can't generally be filed. Further, if the work hasn't been performed in order to give rise to that payment, the payment can't be liened.

Further, where a lien claimant has performed careless or shoddy work, that claimant might have run afoul of their state's licensing rules - and they might actually find themselves in trouble with the state licensing board. Further, making a claim against a contractor's license bond when they've failed to perform acceptable work might be an option, too.

As for how to fight a lien claim itself...
One option may be to demand the release of the lien. By sending a demand letter coupled with legal threats against a contractor, it might be possible to have a contractor release their lien without further need for dispute. Or, at least it could help to claw back their payment demands.

Another option may be to file a surety bond to discharge the filed lien (called "bonding off a lien"). An owner can secure a bond and file it with the county, and upon filing, the lien will be discharged and transferred to the filed bond. A claimant can still pursue payment against the bond when a lien is bonded off, but the property title would no longer be in jeopardy. Granted, bonding off a lien can be expensive.

If necessary, an owner can always challenge a lien claimant's bond through legal action and attempt to have the lien removed. If an owner can show that the filed lien is flawed, baseless, or that the underlying payment claim does not justify the lien filing, an owner could have the lien discharged. Though, in order to file suit and challenge a lien, a lawyer should at least be consulted (if not hired). An attorney will be able to assess your circumstances and relevant documentation in order to advise on how best to proceed. In fact, regardless of which route is taken to fight off a lien claim, consulting with an attorney will be valuable to determine what options are available and which ones might be the most successful.

These resources should be helpful, too:
(1) A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
(2) Improper Lien Filed on Your Property? Here’s What to Do
(3) How Do You Remove A Frivolous Mechanics Lien?
(4) New Jersey Mechanics Lien Overview
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