Mechanics Lien Foreclosure
I had a lien put on my house over a dispute with a renovation gone “bad”. I requested they come fix the work and they wanted the other half of their payment – unwilling to fix the bad work they did. I am now looking at options such as contesting the lien.
I do have a question – If I contest and they move forward with the “foreclosure of lien” lets say that they happen to win. Does this mean my house is foreclosed – or can we just choose to pay the amount due in cash after the court awards it?
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Legal Associate Levelset
First, it's worth mentioning that with the risk involved and the cost of legal fees, fighting a lien claim will often be a daunting battle. Typically, unless there are serious amounts in play, trying to resolve a dispute without the need for legal action will be the cheaper, less stressful, and faster option for reaching a conclusion. Still, every situation is different - and if a contractor is making unfounded payment claims, fighting a lien may well be the best option. Either way - before deciding to dive into a legal battle, it'd be wise to have a local construction or real estate attorney review the circumstances and advise on how to proceed. If the lien will be challenged, a lawyer would be needed anyway. But, if consulting with a lawyer shows that combatting a lien may be an unwise decision, then at least you might be able to avoid the bulk of legal fees.
Anyway - note that lien claims are limited to payment owed for work performed. If a contractor has exaggerated their claim, or if they are claiming amounts due for work that's not actually been done, fighting a filed lien claim might be an easier decision. Further, informing a claimant that there are serious penalties for exaggerating a Florida lien (including, potentially, criminal penalties) could help convince them not to pursue enforcing their lien claim. What's more, in the event that it appears a lien claim is bogus, an owner can actually shorten the clock for the claimant to file suit on their claim. When an owner files then serves what's called a "Notice of Contest of Lien" upon a lien claimant, the timeframe for filing suit is shortened to a mere 60 days from when the notice was filed. Alternatively, this timeframe can be shortened even further if an owner files and serves a summons and complaint to show why the lien shouldn't be enforced or should be vacated altogether.
As for the foreclosure process itself...
An owner will generally have the ability to pay a lien claim before foreclosure of the property is put into motion - whether that be by settling a dispute before it reaches a final conclusion, or paying a judgment before the foreclosure process is initiated. But it would be wise to reach out to a local attorney familiar with Florida's lien enforcement and foreclosure process to better understand exactly when the property would be at risk. They'll have much more experience with that, and as mentioned above, if the lien will be fought, an attorney would be necessary anyway.
There's one more topic with discussing when a lien has been filed but the owner feels it's improper. In Florida, like many states, owners have the opportunity to bond off filed mechanics liens. This means that an owner can secure a payment bond, file that bond with the recorder's office (much like a lien claim), and have the filed lien transferred to the bond rather than leaving the lien attached to the property itself. By doing so, an owner can eliminate the chance that their property is ultimately foreclosed upon - even if the lien claimant is successful. Of course, securing a mechanics lien bond might be a little expensive - but for many owners, that's a better prospect than losing their property. For more on that option, it would be helpful to talk to a company that provides mechanics lien release bonds, and/or to further discuss the option with your lawyer. Levelset has a short article that explains the process a little further, as well: Primer on Mechanics Lien Bonds and Bonding a Mechanics Lien.
For a little more information on the topics mentioned above, here are some resources I think will be helpful:
(1) A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
Frivolous Mechanics Liens: Intentionally Fraudulent vs. Honest Mistakes
Florida Mechanics Lien Overview, FAQs, and Statutes.