Mechanic’s Liens

The Mechanics’ Lien law provides special protection to contractors, subcontractors, laborers and suppliers who furnish labor or materials to repair, remodel or build your home.

If any of these people are not paid for the services or materials they have provided, your home may be subject to a mechanics’ lien and eventual sale in a legal proceeding to enforce the lien. This result can occur even when the homeowner has made full payment for the work of improvement.

The mechanics’ lien is a right that a state gives to workers and suppliers to record a lien and ensure payment. This lien may be recorded where the property owner has paid the contractor in full and the contractor then fails to pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or laborers. Thus, in the worst case, a homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

The best protection against these claims is for the homeowner to employ reputable firms with sufficient experience and capital and/or require completion and payment bonding of the construction work. The issuance of checks payable jointly to the contractor, material men and suppliers is another protective measure, as is the careful disbursement of funds in phases based upon the percentage of completion of the project at a given point in the construction process. The protection offered by mechanics’ lien releases can also be helpful.

Even if a mechanics’ lien is recorded against your property you may be able to resolve the problem without further payment to the lien claimant. This possibility exists where the proper procedure for establishing the lien was not followed. While it is true that persons who have provided labor, services, or materials to a job site may record mechanics’ liens, each is required to strictly adhere to a well-established procedure in order to create a valid mechanics’ lien.

Needless to say, this is one area of the law that is very complex, thus it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney if you become aware that a mechanics’ lien has been recorded against your property. In the event you discover that a lien has been recorded but no effort has been made to enforce the lien, a title company may decide to ignore the lien. However, be prepared to be presented with a positive plan to eliminate the title problems created by this type of lien. This may be accomplished by means of a recorded mechanics’ lien release from the person who created the lien, or other measures acceptable to the title company.

As in all areas of the real estate field, the best advice is to investigate the quality, integrity, and business reputation of the firm with whom you are dealing. Once you are satisfied you are dealing with a reputable company and before you begin your construction project, discuss your concerns about possible mechanics’ lien problems and work out, in advance, a method of ensuring that they will not occur.

Do you want to preview the interior of a home? Or do you want disclosures or inspections on a property, give me a call at 510-684-1455. I am here to assist you when you need me.

 
 

Testimonials about Leah

Hiring Leah to be our realtor was the best decision we made when we sold our home in Oakland. We moved to Illinois for my work, and our relocation company required us to interview multiple realtors, all from the Oakland/Berkeley area. Leah was the first agent we interviewed, and while we completed our interviews with the other realtors, we knew right away that Leah was going to be our favorite. When Leah arrived at our house, she was full of enthusiasm and friendliness. She started off by making very positive comments about our location, the view, and her overall first impressions. Her opinions on how our location compared to different neighborhoods in the area meshed with our thinking exactly. Then she had us walk through the house, where she paid attention to every inch of every floor and walls and fixtures, asking lots of questions and taking notes and photos. After giving her the tour we sat down and Leah told us she thought our house could sell for just over 700K, and showed us the comps and discussed the trends that supported her position. She explained why certain lower comps were not applicable based on her research of those sales, and why buyers who had been in the hunt for a while (it's a seller's market in Oakland) would understand why our home had more value. She explained that she didn't think we needed to do any major repairs or upgrades, as they wouldn't increase the price of our home nearly as much as the investment we would have to put in. We left very impressed and excited (we had purchased the house a few years before for a much lower price and had expected it needed a lot of repairs). The other realtors we interviewed over the following week didn't show as much interest in our house, paid minimal attention to the details, and suggested that a lot of work was needed if we were going to get over 600k for the house. They used the comps that Leah had discounted, and scoffed at the idea that houses in the next neighborhood over would be comparable to ours. We agonized over the decision for a while. We liked Leah, we knew she would give 100% to sell our house, but what if it really wasn't worth as much as she thought? We reviewed the sales plans of each realtor, and in the end we came to the conclusion that we trusted Leah over the others, and even if she was wrong on the starting price, she would present out house in the best possible light because she understood it's value. But our fears were unfounded, Leah turned out to be completely right and worked harder than we had hoped to prove our trust was well-placed. Leah held 5 open houses and a realtor tour in 3 weeks before opening up for offers. She had a handyman make minor touches (fence repair, painting our mailbox) and paid for those repairs herself. She coordinated the cleaning, the carpet washing, the staging (she met with multiple stagers before choosing the one she felt fit our house right). While we focused on our new life in Chicago, she was back in Oakland meeting with 4 appraisers, 2 home inspectors, a termite inspector, a mold inspector, and coming to the house dozens of times to interview contractors for bids for termite work and mold remediation, and to inspect their work for thoroughness afterwards. She advised on us which contractors seemed the most professional, who was overcharging us, and made herself available whenever we scheduled a new one out for a competitive quote. When our buyer tried to get a discount after the first appraisal, she proved herself a shrewd negotiator and was able to work with the buyer's agent to avoid a significant price reduction. When our company-appointed relocation agent was slowing down the process, Leah set her straight so we could keep the deal moving. We sold our house for $705k. The other agents we had interviewed told us we'd need to do a lot of upgrades to even sell between 600 and 650, but Leah insisted our house was worth at least 700. We believed she was right. And she was right. I know the other agents would not have gotten us such a high price, and would not have showcased our best features like Leah did. Overall, I would definitely recommend Leah for anyone looking to sell their home. She puts your needs first, and will work tirelessly and enthusiastically to make sure you are happy. We used a relocation company who referred Leah (and the other realtors) to us but Leah made it clear that she worked for us, not for them. When the relocation company dragged out the process, Leah was positive, helpful, and remained enthusiastic, and we knew she had us covered. I really cannot express enough the gratitude my wife and I feel towards Leah, who took care of us so well and gave so much of her time and her own resources so that we would have the best experience and get highest sales price possible. Hire Leah. Justin R.
Thank you for lowering your fees to get our offer accepted. Thank you for paying for the home inspection and termite inspection to get it done quickly. Thank you for understanding that my deposit should not be put at risk if I don't feel comfortable. Every time I called with lender complaints you where there for me and got on the phone and straightened it out for me. You explained documents when lenders could not help me understand. You were the best buffer I have experienced. I trust you like family. I will use you again when it's time to buy or sell. Thank you so much. A.Wouldo, Buyer
Lady, you are amazing. Sold my house and pushed for more than what those agents wanted to give. Helped me clean and organize. Dropped stuff off for me and pushed those vendors to do what they said they would. It was fun and I love my new house you helped me by way out of your service area so I did not have to look for another agent. You knew what I wanted and we got it done. Your family now and forever. W. Terry Seller/Buyer
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