I work under the table for a unlicensed unbonded contractor who owes me for over 1 hundred hours of work on a house that is currently vacant and up for sale. He is refusing to pay me and so is the home owner. How do I get what’s owed to me?

6 months ago

I pretty much just did explain my situation. I am owed a couple thousand dollars from a unlicensed unbonded contractor and/or property owner

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been going unpaid. First, it’s worth noting that it’s always a good idea to carry a license if a license is required for the work being performed – and to work with other contractors and subs who do the same. A failure to hold the necessary licensure can affect payment rights on the whole, much less lien rights. In Oregon, unlicensed contractors and subs whose work requires licensure will not be entitled to make a lien claim themselves. However, it’s unclear whether their lack of licensure will also affect the rights of those who perform work under them. But, where lien rights are available, mechanics liens are probably the most powerful tool for construction payment. zlien discusses that idea here: How Do Mechanics Liens Work? Further, because mechanics liens are such a powerful too, the mere threat of filing a mechanics lien will often be enough to compel payment – without ever needing to actually file a mechanics lien! By sending a lien warning like a Notice of Intent to Lien, an unpaid party can inform their customer as well as the property owner that they’re serious about recovering payment – and that, if push comes to shove, a lien claim may be filed. Property owners will often put pressure on their contractor to make payment when they know the contractor’s subs or suppliers haven’t been paid and might lien. Plus, a Notice of Intent to Lien can be sent regardless of whether a claimant will actually be able to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien. zlien discusses that option in depth here: What is a Notice of Intent to Lien? Of course, there are other options that might be helpful to compel payment beyond the mechanics lien process. Threatening other legal action (such as claims based on breach of contract, unjust enrichment, or under the Oregon prompt payment laws) could also be effective. Nobody likes liens, but everyone really hates a lawsuit – especially when payment is actually owed. So, sending a demand letter coupled with threats of litigation can go a long way, particularly when such a letter is sent via an attorney. Finally, actually pursuing a claim either in court or small claims court may be an option as well – though the lack of licensure could affect the ability to recover. In order for more clarity on how licensure may affect the ability to make a claim, it’d be wise to consult a local construction attorney. They’ll be able to review your circumstances, any documentation, and the Oregon licensing laws and advise on how to proceed.

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