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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>We started a job working directly for a customer, but now at the end - it turns out that we may have been taking on some of the work of another sub or gc on site - so the customer wants us to bill that contractor directly - we have followed procedures and deadlines with the first client in mind. Do we have any legal leverage over this new contractor? Or should we resort to liening the original property?

We started a job working directly for a customer, but now at the end - it turns out that we may have been taking on some of the work of another sub or gc on site - so the customer wants us to bill that contractor directly - we have followed procedures and deadlines with the first client in mind. Do we have any legal leverage over this new contractor? Or should we resort to liening the original property?

WisconsinMechanics LienRecovery Options

We started a job working directly for a customer, but now at the end - it turns out that we may have been taking on some of the work of another sub or gc on site - so the customer wants us to bill that contractor directly - we have followed procedures and deadlines with the first client in mind. Do we have any legal leverage over this new contractor? Or should we resort to liening the original property?

1 reply

Feb 27, 2019
I'm sorry to hear you're having to jump through hoops for payment, and that's a very interesting situation. First and foremost, I should note that I'm not able to advise you how to proceed - but I am able to provide some relevant information that should help you reach your own conclusion about how to proceed. For legal advice, reaching out to a local construction attorney would be helpful. They'll be able to review the circumstances as well as any documentation and communication, then advise on how to proceed. Anyway when hired by someone to perform construction work on a project, that hiring party is almost always responsible for making payment, themselves. They may prefer that some other party pay a portion of the bill, especially in a situation where the unpaid party was brought in to supplement some other subcontractor's work - but the hiring party is very likely the one responsible for making payment, and they shouldn't be able to pass off that obligation to some other party when it wasn't previously set out under contract. Honestly, in a situation like the one described above, it might be more appropriate for a contractor to back charge their subcontractor whose work had to be supplemented by a new-hire, then use those funds to pay the unpaid new-hire. In terms of seeking payment from some other subcontractor - it would be hard to establish leverage when there's no apparent obligation to make payment, especially without the involvement of that subcontractor's customer. In order to obtain leverage over a nonpaying customer, and even the property owner, though, threatening to make a lien claim could work. Because mechanics liens are such a powerful tool, owners are extremely wary of lien filings on their property, and so are their contractors. If a mechanics lien filing is threatened - via a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien - pressure can be put on both the property owner and their contractors to resolve the payment dispute before it gets any worse. As far as being able to file a mechanics lien - keep in mind the deadline for filing a Wisconsin lien (6 months from the last date on which labor or materials were furnished to the project). Also, keep in mind that Wisconsin is one of the few states where a Notice of Intent to Lien is required - and that must be made at least 30 days before filing a mechanics lien. For more on the Wisconsin lien rules, these resources should be helpful: (1) Wisconsin Lien & Notice FAQs; and (2) How to File a Wisconsin Lien.
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