Quit Getting Screwed Podcast

Episode 43: Learn Your Liens, Wisconsin!

with Brian Zimmerman

Episode Link: https://the-quit-getting-screwed-podcast.castos.com/podcasts/21898/episodes/episode-43-learn-your-liens-wisconsin-with-brian-zimmerman

We’re back with another helpful episode covering the lien laws in all 50 states, and next up on our list is Wisconsin. Karalynn Cromeens has asked lien guru Brian Zimmerman, an experienced attorney and shareholder of Hurtado Zimmerman SC, to join the Quit Getting Screwed podcast and share his expertise on lien rights in the state of Wisconsin. 

Brian’s path to construction law began when he worked as an HVAC installer. He then took up civil engineering as an undergraduate student at Marquette University (where he also obtained his Law Degree). He started out as a clerk at his current firm and worked his way up to shareholder. Brian has been practicing construction law for 13 years and continues to make an impact through community involvement. 

Diving right into some of the requirements for licensing, Brian explains that a license is only required for residential contractors in the state of Wisconsin. Commercial work does not require a contractor to have a license unless there is a special trade involved. He also states that there are some local municipalities that have different licensing requirements, so it is important for construction workers to know them and make sure they are complying.

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Lien rights in Wisconsin are quite expansive considering that anyone who has “worked for the improvement of a project” has a right to file. There are a few specific steps to take to protect your lien rights as a residential and commercial contractor. For residential, the steps are different for prime contractors and subcontractors. Generally, an initial notice is required followed by a notice of intent to file (presented to the owner of the property), and finally filing the lien. For commercial, the process is similar, but the initial notices can be skipped, and contractors are able to move right into the “notice of intent” and “filing a claim to lien” steps. 

Compared to a lot of states, filing a lien in Wisconsin can be pretty simple but there are still some very important things to note. Brian mentions that attorney’s fees and interest are not included in the lien even if there is a judgment to foreclose but there is a breach of contract action that will permit it. There are also trust fund rules for subcontractors and suppliers who are not paid by their general contractor if the GC has been paid. This is considered theft by contract and has some steep penalties, says Brian. 

Karalynn and Brian get into more interesting topics including liens on public works projects and bond claims. It is interesting to get insight into Wisconsin lien statutes and how they can either work in the subcontractor’s favor or make things a bit more difficult. If you are in Wisconsin and need more information on filing a construction lien, or any other matter pertaining to your construction business you can check out the Hurtado Zimmerman SC website and schedule a consultation. For more from Karalynn, follow The Cromeens Law Firm on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. You can also purchase the book that started it all, Quit Getting Screwed, on Amazon.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.