Lien laws are both stringent and confusing. Any contractor who improves real property is given an extraordinary power of being able to place a lien on the property in the event of non-payment, before obtaining a judgment. However, in order to maintain that right, there are strict requirements for notice to the land owner that must be met.
First, in most situations, the contractor is required to give notice to the land owner of the contractors’ lien rights within 15 days of starting work. The statute even prescribes the form of the notice that is required. However, simply providing notice of your lien rights is not sufficient.
In the event a land owner has not paid under the contract, then the contractor has to give a thirty-day notice of his intent to file a lien if the amount is not paid. Again the statute sets forth what information needs to be included.
Finally, there are requirements about what must be included with the lien claim itself as well as strict deadlines for serving the lien claim and subsequently filing an action to enforce the lien claim.
There are additional considerations and remedies for sub-contractors when a general contractor may or may not have given the land owner proper notice and these notice requirements can change based on the size or type of project. Before beginning your next project, be sure to contact an attorney to make sure that you have a system in place to ensure that your rights as a contractor are preserved.
Sean M. Sweeney is a shareholder at Halling & Cayo. His practice focuses on business litigation, civil litigation, stock broker fraud, business transnational law, and real estate law. Sean represents investors, small business owners, and companies locally in Wisconsin, all over the United States, as well as internationally with clients in Canada, Germany, and Australia.
Email Sean: [email protected]