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Question DetailsAsked on 3/27/2018

Can a contractor put a lien on my home if there was never a contract of any kind between us

I was going to sell my home after my husband passed away, well long story short the deal fell through because of probate issues that I was unaware of. So I decided to just let the property to go to the city for back taxes, and went there to get the last of my things that was there before the court date. Upon arriving I discovered that someone (the people who were going to buy the home) had threw away all of my belongings and had completely remodeled my home, without my permission, there was never an contract for the remodel. I gave them the opportunity to purchase the home but that contract has expired. My question is. Can they put a mechanics lien against my property and do I have to sign another contract with them, or can I just sell the house myself.

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1 Answer


Sorry to hear of your loss.

You definitely need an attorney because not only because of loss of the home but also sounds like illegal occupancy of the home (if done before foreclosure/court transfer effective date) and probably illegal throwing out of your possessions.

Sounds like, if you don't have one, start with a Probate attorney (Wills and Estates and Trusts specialty) - sorry, no Angies List listings for attorneys. If the house needs to go through probate he can probably stop any sale or foreclosure until it has gone through the probate process, assuming your husband's name was on the deed/title (with or without yours). Presumably not having put the house into/through probate is what killed the sale contract - if indeed it was killed.

Letting the property go to the city for back taxes, at least in most areas, means it gets sold at courthouse steps auction and the city gets first dibs on the proceeds for sale costs and the back taxes, but usually you get any remaining equity in it (after any mortgage is settled) so if you had equity in it, you would get that back - so don't just "let it go".

But letting it go for taxes means a major hit to your credit report - whereas if it goes through probate, it is quite likely (assuming you cannot pay the taxes) that your husband's half - or maybe all if only his name was on it - may not be forecloseable for some time, giving time to straighten this out. In fact, if the Estate owes more debt than its assets, his share of the debt might be wiped out - leaving you with your half intact.

In addition, depending on state, you might have surviving spouse rights or surviving spouse bankruptcy rights - the ability to keep the home regardless of debt on it. So you definitely need an attorney - IMMEDIATELY.

On the remodel and lien thing - if they remodeled before being given legal possession by the courts they are trespassing (assuming you had no agreement or contract with them to do so). Generally, if you can establish that fact, anything they put into the house they cannot collect on. Could also be they are illegally trying to take possession by squatting.

If they (sounds like they being the original buyers) took possession under the original sale contract without proper escrow closing they are in deep trouble - if the escrow company closed escrow without your involvement and proper paperwork being signed and money changing hands THEY are also in deep trouble - definitely sounds like an attorney's rats nest to untangle. If your realtor (assuming you had one) let that happen they could also be in deep trouble - especially if they were representing both parties.

Throwing your property out without legal notice (commonly takes at least 30 days notice, usually more like 60-90 days and a court order in many cases) would put them at risk of being responsible to you for replacements costs and punitive damages, not to mention possible criminal charges.

On the lien - yes they can place a lien (though sounds like they think they own it so no use putting a lien on their own property) but if it belongs to you, lack of any contract or agreement to do the remodeling would make that lien easy to have the courts remove and they could collect nothing for their work.

Below are links to a few similar questions with answers about liens - but get yourself an attorney IMMEDIATELY to straighten both the house and the estate situation out, because I wonder what is happening to other assets in the estate - financial accounts, life insurance, auto title, etc. It also sounds to me (my apologies if I am wrong, just my impression) like you are pretty naive or innocent with regard to estates and real estate dealings so an attorney to help straighten things out, help locate all assets and benefits due the estate and due you (including straightening out death benefits, insurance, account you owe money one, etc) and advise you on your rights and responsibilities.

If you don't have prior experience with an attorney you trusted to give a recommendation of an attorney for you to work with, ask family members or neighbors for recommendations from their experience - even if that attorney does not do that sort of work. Still, a recommendation from an attorney a friend or relative has had good experience with is better than pulling one out of the yellow pages.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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