Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>my contractor filed a case in small claims court against me for payment infull of an unfinished deck job. He received partial payment. He also filed for a mechanics lien on my property. He has now added cost of materials? which were never discussed as I purchased all material and another 1k to the total. Will small claims address the lien if he loses the case?
my contractor filed a case in small claims court against me for payment infull of an unfinished deck job. He received partial payment. He also filed for a mechanics lien on my property. He has now added cost of materials? which were never discussed as I purchased all material and another 1k to the total. Will small claims address the lien if he loses the case?
mechanics lien and small claims court case filed for incomplete payment for incomplete job. Will small claims address the lien on my property if I win the case?
Jul 25, 2019
I'm really sorry to hear about that. First and foremost - it's worth mentioning that mechanics lien rights are only available to the extent that the claimant has performed and has gone unpaid for that performance. So, as I'm sure you suspected, lien rights are not available for amounts not actually owed to the claimant - like for materials that were purchased directly by the owner. And, it's also worth noting that when a mechanics lien is filed for an amount greater than what's due, the lien claimant might even face liability themselves - particularly when the claimant knowingly inflated the amount of their claim. More on that here: (1) Don't File Fraudulent Liens; and (2) There's a Difference Between Fraud and an Honest Mistake. In eggregious cases, an owner might even be able to go after a lien claimant for slander of title.
As for the small claims court...
An owner winning a case against a contractor who has also filed a mechanics lien against the owner will not automatically discharge the filed mechanics lien. It might be worthwhile to try and bring up the issue of the mechanics lien in small claims court, but it would be unsurprising for a small claims court to refuse to hear an action regarding a filed lien. However, if an owner proves that they don't, in fact, owe anything to the contractor (or that they owe the contractor substantially less than what's alleged) - that would mean the underlying debt which gave rise to the mechanics lien would be eradicated or at least diminished. So, in essence - the lien won't disappear when a small claims suit is won, but the basis for the lien might. And, if successful, an owner should be able to parlay a small claims court victory into having a lien claimant release their lien.
Specifically, under § 1311.20 of the Ohio mechanics lien statute, a lienholder must release their lien claim within 30 days of losing a court action involving their lien claim. Winning an action against a contractor which does not involve the lien might not automatically entitle an owner to force the contractor to release their lien. However, when it's been shown that the debt is not owed, an owner should be able to challenge the filed lien relatively easily. And, considering the cost associated with battling a lien challenge, an owner might be able to convince their contractor to release their lien without further action in order to fully resolve the dispute without the need for further litigation. Or, if need be, the owner could file an action in court showing that they've proven the underlying debt to be untrue, and that the court should discharge the lien from the property.