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What recourse do I have if work was approved by an executor and completed after homeowner passed away?

ArizonaMechanics LienPayment Disputes

Work on home was approved by the executor of the estate. However, on the day before work was completed the homeowner passed away. The home's caretaker asked us to complete work as it would need to be completed in order for them to sale the house. Now the executor is refusing to pay for the work completed. We sent a preliminary notice but were just told by zlien that we can't lien the property through an owner designee. Since the owner is no longer living, what recourse do we have to collect on the almost $3000 invoice? Thank you for your time.

1 reply

Feb 6, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that - this is certainly an unpredictable situation, and I'm sure it's been quite the headache. First off, any work authorized and performed prior to a property owner's passing should not be affected by the death of the property owner. Anyway, in Arizona, mechanics lien rights will be available to those who improve real property "whether the work was done or the articles were furnished at the instance of the owner of the building, structure or improvement, or his agent." Under the Arizona mechanics lien statute, an agent is identified as "Every contractor, subcontractor, architect, builder or other person having charge or control of the construction, alteration or repair, either wholly or in part, of any building, structure or improvement...and the owner shall be liable for the reasonable value of labor or materials furnished to his agent." It follows that, if an executor of an estate is considered an agent authorized to commission an improvement on a given property, and the executor commissions work, lien rights will be available to a party who furnishes that work and goes unpaid. However, any work not authorized by an agent would likely not be lienable - so if someone other than an agent was the one to authorize work, lien rights for the work performed without authorization will likely not be available. Of course, it's also entirely possible that a home's caretaker might be considered an agent for the purposes of an improvement. Finally, even if lien rights aren't available, a claim of unjust enrichment or breach of contract might be available routes for recovery - but those actions might have to be brought against the estate of the owner. Before it comes to that, though, official demands for payment which make it clear that legal action will be taken to recover unpaid sums may be a good option.
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