Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: This post was inspired by a question asked by a homeowner in Washingon over on Avvo.com. Her question was essentially this: “Can a contractor file a lien on my property even when I’m not satisfied with the work?”
Construction projects can sometimes be a real complicated mess. It feels like disputes are almost inevitable, as so much can go wrong, personal tastes and tolerances are always in play, and there are so many parties working on top of each other that it’s complex to assign blame.
Contractors and suppliers frequently find themselves in situations when they believe their work was performed properly, but others on the project contend otherwise. Money is withheld from the contractor or supplier for “workmanship issues.” What’s a contractor or supplier to do?
Well, the mechanics lien remedy is actually a really great option in this scenario.
The reason is simple: proving that workmanship is below par will require expensive and extended litigation, as these types of issues typically require a full-blown trial. However, when a mechanics lien is filed, it ties up the property and has consequences to the owner and prime contractor immediately; no trial required.
The only remedy for the property owner or prime contractor to fix a mechanics lien problem is to pay the lien claim or file an action challenging the lien (they can also bond it, but this is not really hurtful to the claimant as we explain here).
The big worry for mechanic lien claimants is if an action is filed in court to have the mechanics lien removed. If this action is filed claiming the lien is improper because of workmanship issues, the challenging party will have a very, very difficult time prevailing. The reason is simple: courts typically do not entertain factual arguments that require full-blown trials in summary mechanic lien removal proceedings.
So to the extent there is a dispute over workmanship at the property, the judge presiding over a mechanics lien challenge will likely rule (and should rule) that the lien was properly filed and will stick around until the workmanship issues are decided by a judge after a full trial.
Which means two things for the purposes of answering this FAQ:
1. You can file a mechanics lien even when workmanship is in dispute; and
2. It’s probably a good idea to do so, and will likely create leverage for you to negotiate a deal.