Clients can be terribly confusing sometimes. One moment they’re all so gung-ho about starting a project then the next thing you know, they get mad as soon as the total project costs come out. While some get mad but still pay their dues, others simply get mad and refuse to pay a cent more! This is one of the few instances when the popular principle “The customer is always right” simply won’t sell. Refusing to pay for work that has already been dutifully carried out is just a big no-no.
Luckily, state and federal laws side with laborers when it comes to cases like this too. The law, after all, exists to benefit the disadvantaged and the oppressed (check it out). And in this case, it is very obvious who’s getting the short end of the stick. If this has happened to you or is currently happening to you, do not fret. There is still a surefire way to get your hard-earned money.
File for a mechanics lien.
What Is A Mechanics Lien?
If you’re a contractor working directly with a client or a subcontractor working for a head contractor and you have labor hours, construction materials, or other services left unpaid, then you are definitely qualified to file for a mechanics lien against your client’s property.
A mechanics lien, otherwise known as property liens or construction liens, is a legal document that ensures no hard labor and other construction costs are left unpaid after a project finishes or closes. It is a document bound to the property title’s original owner to make sure that the property is not refinanced, sold, or loaned against for as long as the liens is still active. The presence of a lien creates a blur in the property’s legal ownership and assignment. This means that until it is settled, the real property owner cannot make any definitive decision to transfer or sell his rights to the property to another person. Here’s a nice video about it:
Who Can File A Mechanics Lien?
This document exists for the protection of laborers and contractors. Needless to say, they are the ones qualified to file for a lien against a property too.
Say you took on a construction project for a total contract price of $6000. You hired helpers, dealt with subcontractors for materials and supplies, and supervised the progress of the project as a whole. At the end of the project, your client owes you $3000 – half of the agreed contract price. The client refuses to pay because of baseless reasons such as “the design isn’t good” or “this project is not worth that much.” Presuming that you have laid out all the project details (e.g. design, dimensions, materials, etc.) before construction started, the client should have no right to raise such concerns at this time – especially since everything has been accomplished and completed.
If you are to experience a similar case as to the example we have above and your client absolutely refuses to pay you the amount he owes, this qualifies for filing a mechanics lien on top of breach of contract. You have to look into individual laws for lien filing, however, as it slightly differs in every state. Like, an Arizona mechanics lien will not be the same as a New York one.
When you file a lien against the property, it would be as if you own part of it. Citing the same example above, it would mean that you own $3000 of it. This is why the property owner cannot make any selling decision until all the liens associated to the property is cleared. The office that manages public and private properties will see to it that they would never be able to sell the property legally when liens are still in full effect. This would compel difficult clients to pay off their balances because it is only then that they can reclaim the property as theirs and theirs alone.
As I mentioned before, a mechanics lien purports to preserve the rights of laborers and contractors. It makes sure that no matter how much time passes or how stubborn your client is, you will still be paid what is rightfully due to you. Don’t worry, though. Disputes like this are often settled sooner or later. After all, property owners don’t really want liens to affect their properties.