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MassachusettsMechanics Lien

This case is in MA. I hired a contractor W (S corp) to do the siding. The contractor W finished the job and I paid him in full. Later, 3 employees of this contractor each filed a lien on my property. I do not have direct contact with these 3 employees. I have below questions: 1. If the lien meets all the requirements and the case appears to court, do i have a defense to defeat the lien as i already paid the contractor in full amount? 2. The 3 employee filed the lien under M.G.L.c.254, &1 which is for labor. Are they still required to file preliminary notifications, such as notice of identification, notice of contract, and so on? 3. What they did was filed a lien called "sworn statement of amount due" with description of who are they, how much they were owned, property description in the lien. Is it enough and valid? 4. What are the deadlines for filed a lien under M.G.L.c. 254, &1 as labor? 5. If the attorney fees can be included in the case for both my side and the 3 employee if the case appears to court? 6. If the lien is invalid for some mistakes in the description, can i ask them to remove the lien otherwise i will sue them with asking they pay my attorney fees? 7. Who can decide the lien is valid or not, the judge? Thank you so much for your time and help!!

1 reply

Mar 4, 2019
These are good questions. First and foremost - I should note that in order for a full legal review of your situation, it would be wise to consult a local construction or real estate attorney. They will be able to assess your situation and determine the strengths and weaknesses of any approach to the lien claim. Further, here's a resource that's helpful for many property owners facing a lien claim: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?. That being said, let's take a quick look at the topics mentioned above. First, regarding whether a laborer can lien for amounts already paid to their employer - it's a little unclear whether a laborer's lien rights would be limited by amounts paid to their employer. In Massachusetts, a subcontractor's lien rights will be limited to amounts owed and unpaid to the general contractor, but that doesn't necessarily mean a laborer's lien would be limited by payments made to their employer. What's more, § 1 of the Massachusetts lien statute specifically sets out lien rights for laborers and doesn't mention that limitation (and the lien rights for both prime contractors and subcontractors are set out by different sections of the Massachusetts lien statute. Again, for clarity, it'd be helpful to reach out to a local construction or real estate attorney. Regarding the second question, it's unclear what notice requirements would apply to a contractor's employee. A Notice of Identification is only required of subs, suppliers, or other sub-tier claimants who do not have a contractual relationship with the project's prime contractor. A Notice of Written Contract may be required - but that acts a little differently than a traditional preliminary notice (and I'll touch on that some in just a second...). Regarding the third question, in Massachusetts, the filing of a mechanics lien is a two-part process: (1) a Notice of Written Contract, and (2) a Statement of Account. Potentially, these documents can be filed together, and it's possible that a claimant might have titled them something else. Without knowing more about the document(s) submitted, it's unclear whether a given filing is valid or enforceable. Regarding your fourth question, the deadline to file a mechanics lien does not vary by role on Massachusetts projects. The deadline will be the earliest of 90 days from the recording of a Notice of Substantial Completion (if filed); 120 days from the recording of a Notice of Termination (if filed); and 120 days after the claimant's last furnishing of labor or materials to the project. For your fifth question, attorney fees cannot be included in a Massachusetts lien claim itself, but presumably, they may be among the damages sought by either party in a mechanics lien dispute. For more clarity, consulting a local construction or real estate attorney more familiar with litigating in the state might help. For your sixth question, any number of issues could potentially invalidate a lien filing, and based on those issues (or perceived issues), an owner could certainly try and force a lien claimant to remove their lien. Whether or not that will be successful will depend on the parties to the dispute. And finally, if a mechanics lien ultimately makes it to a situation where the lien will be determined to be valid and enforceable (or otherwise), that determination would ultimately come down to the decision of a judge - and it's impossible to be sure of how a specific court might turn, especially without knowing the specifics of the situation. For more background on Massachusetts lien law, this resource should be helpful: Massachusetts Lien & Notice FAQs. As a last and final note - keep in mind that property owners will generally have the power to bring their general contractor into the fold to hold them accountable for their failure to make payment. And often, when an owner's direct contractor has failed to make payment, the contractor can be compelled to make payment when under legal fire from both their own employees and the property owner on the project.
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