We agreed to a deck repair which had 3 components: 1. Remove approximately 25% of wood on deck to gain access to leaking membrane underneath and replace leaking membrane with new one; 2. Correct angle of membrane so that water did not accumulate and remain on membrane, but instead drain into gutters, and 3. Replace wood on deck and re-stain. Contractor was asked to provide an estimate but demurred, saying that an hourly rate of $125 per hour for a two man crew "was better for the consumer". Since we would be present during the entire project and could thus verify the time spent, we agreed. We carefully noted arrival and departure time of crew each day, beginning when track pulled into driveway and noting when lunch was had. Contractor was never personally present, just sent workers over and stopped by once or twice for 30 minutes during the approximately 3.5 days it took. At conclusion of work, contractor billed for three times actual hours worked, claiming he paid crew on this basis. Refuses to adjust hours, and now threatens lien and/or lawsuit. In the two months since this occurred, it has come to or attention that the work was negligent, in that the membrane was improperly positioned so that water now pools on the membrane even worse than it did before. Deck will have to be re-worked by a competent contractor and may have to be re-stained once all the wood is ripped up. Are we correct that in New York, absent a written contract no lien can be placed? We are talking about a $6,000 job that he is billing at $18,000, although he never provided a breakdown until we provided him with our carefully recorded hours. He just made it up. What steps can we take to protect ourselves from this dishonest scam artist? Thank you very much.