Subcontractor Threatening to File Lien with Homeowner

4 weeks ago

I’m really hoping you can help me. The subcontractor who provided counter tops for a kitchen remodel is threatening a lien. Am I liable?

I paid the original contractor in full per our agreement, and we never signed a lien consent for the sub. I feel horrible that the sub wasn’t fully paid but I don’t feel I am liable since I paid the contractor in full.

Multiple attempts to contact the original contractor have gone unanswered. I even sent a certified letter but it was returned to me.

Thank you!

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

In most states, subcontractors are entitled to file mechanics liens. However, as you hinted at above, Missouri subcontractors have restrictions not found in other states. In Missouri, in order for a subcontractor to file a mechanics lien against residential property, the owner must’ve signed a Consent of Owner document with their general contractor (and that document will often be included in the contract, itself). If that document has not been signed, then a subcontractor is not able to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien claim.

Informing a potential claimant that their lien claim would be invalid and unenforceable can help to persuade them to attempt some other recourse for recovery. This is especially true when done via attorney letter, assuring them that a potential lien would be fought via legal action.

How to hold a contractor accountable when they’ve failed to pay their sub

In terms of what options that subcontractor may have against their contractor – legal claims such as breach of contract could certainly be on the table and could help to get them paid in full, and pursuing the debt in small claims court could help to avoid the stark costs and time-related to a traditional lawsuit.

But an owner might also be able to help hold a contractor accountable in other, less-official ways. Leaving reviews on sites like Levelset’s contractor pages, with the Better Business Bureau, and elsewhere online (like Google, Facebook, etc.) might be enough bad press to convince a contractor to do the right thing and pay their sub. Further, a complaint with the Tennessee Board for Licensing or even a consumer complaint with the attorney general’s office might be helpful, too.

Additional resources

Finally, based on your question, I think these resources might be valuable, too:

– I Just Received a Notice of Intent to Lien – What Should I Do Now?
– A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?

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