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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>Our builder (built house in Illinois) delayed finishing our punch list after we closed and finally we got the painting done. We had already closed on the house for over a year and a half. Now, over a year later when the work was done, the painter filed a lien for unpaid service work on the punchlist. Are we liable or is the builder?

Our builder (built house in Illinois) delayed finishing our punch list after we closed and finally we got the painting done. We had already closed on the house for over a year and a half. Now, over a year later when the work was done, the painter filed a lien for unpaid service work on the punchlist. Are we liable or is the builder?

IllinoisMechanics Lien

We built a house and closed on the property with a punch list three years ago. The builder still has work he needs to complete. The painter came and finished most of his part of the punch list. That was over a year ago. Today, the Painter sent an email to list of owners he did work for and copied us all on the email that he filed a lien. Are we responsible?

1 reply

Jan 18, 2019
That's a good question. Ultimately, a filed mechanics lien ties directly to the property. Meaning, a mechanics lien filing, in and of itself, does not alter who is responsible or liable for making payment. Rather, the attachment of the lien creates a consequence - if the lien isn't paid by someone, the title to the underlying property could be in jeopardy. So, if a builder was supposed to pay a painter, that painter goes unpaid, and then the painter files a lien on the property - the painter is still owed money from the builder. However, because the builder does not own the underlying property, the owner of the property is also brought in as a potential party to pay the debt. Then, regardless of who actually owes payment to the painter, the mechanics lien could still be valid and in order to avoid the harsh result of a lien enforcement action, an owner may need to think about how to have the lien removed (one option, of course, being that the owner could offer to pay the lienor in exchange for the removal of the lien). Of course, property owners aren't helpless - through lawsuit (or even merely the threat of suit), an owner could force their builder to pay a claimant who has liened their property. Further, many state statutes and license codes will require that the party who failed to make payment will be liable for holding a property owner harmless against lien claims from their subs. Complicating matters further, where work has been authorized by someone other than the property owner, there may be serious question as to whether the work provided will give rise to lien rights. But, in a situation where an owner knows that work will be performed and allows that work to be performed, they might not be able to avoid lien liability. Regardless, once a mechanics lien has been filed, it's a good idea to reach out to a local construction or real estate attorney. The effects of a lien claim can be harsh, and hiring an attorney will make it easier to fully understand the circumstances. Plus, they'll be able to advise you on how best to proceed. As a final note - this article may be helpful: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
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