What Can You Do If a Lien Is Filed Against Your Homestead?
After the 2017 hurricane season, busy general contractors sometimes had to hire subcontractors to complete specific jobs (for electrical, plumbing or flooring repairs, for example). A subcontractor or supplier who has not been paid for work done on your home may try to get payment by filing a legal document called a “lien.” A “lien” asks that the value of your home be used to ensure payment; your home cannot be sold until the claim is paid. There are three steps to follow if you discover a lien has been filed. You may choose to have an attorney help you.
1. Determine whether the lien is valid (more on this below)
2. Pay the lien if it is valid
3. Take action to remove the lien if it is invalid, possibly with the help of an attorney.
Is the Lien Valid?
A general contractor, subcontractor, or material supplier can file a valid lien only when:
- The general contractor and the owner(s) have both signed a contract (both spouses must sign if the property is owned by a married couple).
- The contract was signed and filed before any work was done. (The contract must have been filed in the county where the home is located).
- A conspicuous warning, printed on the contract next to the signature line, warned what would happen if the contract was not followed. The warning language and its appearance must be very specific.A subcontractor must also provide you with additional warnings before filing a lien.
- Were the Notice and Lien filed on time? For the lien to be valid, both the general contractor or the subcontractor are required to send the notice to you by the 15thday of the second month after the unpaid work was finished, and the lien must be filed 30 days after the project was completed.
For example, if a subcontractor installs wood floors on April 1st and is not paid for that work, he must send notice to the owner and general contractor by June 15th, and the lien must be filed by July 15th.
Remove a Valid Lien by Paying It
If you owe the money that the general or subcontractor has claimed with a properly filed a lien on your homestead, pay the lien in order to avoid clouding the title on the property.
Remove an Invalid Lien by Negotiating or Filing a Petition With or Without Legal Help
You may choose to negotiate with the person or company that filed the lien. However, if negotiations fail, and the lien is invalid, you may remove it by filing a petition with the court. The petition should explain all of the reasons why the lien is invalid, which requires an understanding the law. You may want to hire an attorney to create and file the petition, which can be a complicated process.
The Cromeens Law Firm has extensive experience removing homestead liens. If you require legal assistance, schedule a consultation and we would be happy to help you.