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Question DetailsAsked on 9/1/2016

does a contractor need to prove a lien on a home with his expenses, payroll, etc.

My ex filed a lien for his brother that said the brother did $350,000 work on our home within 16 months. This brother lives from paycheck to paycheck and couldn't have charged or paid out labor without taking half up front. If taken to court, with the brother and my ex be required to present payroll, equipment, and materials receipts?

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2 Answers


You need to talk to a lawyer - perhaps start with your divorce attorney because this might be imporper or barred action by your ex, plus assuming this was a jointly owned home and part of the assets divided up (one way or another) in the divorce, he is likely liable for half of the cost if it is legit. And if the ex is asking for money for himself, that portion will likely be barred (assuming the work preceded the divorce case) as a claim that should have been presented during the divorce case. I suspect the divorce attorney will have a field day with you ex in front of the divorce court judge with your ex trying to apparently weasel more money out of your share after the case was settled.

Ultimately, your divorce attorney will probably bring in an attorney with expertise in liens and construction contracts - and you will have to dig out any info and documentation you have on the work and the agreement. Unfortunately, this sounds like an oral or no-contract deal - and $350,000 in work sound incredibly high unless this was a mansion, so I would say the claim is awfully weak in the first place if there was no contract or he is not a licensed contractor, especially if progress payments were not made along the way on a $350,000 job ! Also - if your ex paid money along the way (say half) that does not mean he has paid his half - it is probably those funds were joint funds so half came "out of your pocket". Also, his share of the cost could be considered a contribution to the joint house, which presumably was valued during the divorce, so that money was "sunk" at the time of the divorce and became part of the value of the house, so his share (and maybe your share) could possibly be considered not recoverable from the other co-owner.

Your attorney's starting point will probably be whether you knew about and agreed to this work, any contract, whether the brother was even licensed to do the work - as a contractor and/or as a business (a good way in some states to throw out his claim right up front), whether you made any payments, other documentation, etc.

And yes - if you contest the lien in court, as I am sure you will, he will have to show timesheets, materials invoices, subcontractor invoices, BUILDING PERMIT almost certainly for that $ amount, etc - I suspect he will not have decent documentation in which case it might come down to appraisers evaluating what the increase in property value resulting from the work was and factoring that (in combination with normal recovery percentages for various types of work) to determine the value of his work - IF this was legit at all. In fact, if he is not licensed as a contractor it is possible the lien is fraudulent - another possible way to attack it. In fact, in some states, if he did not have necessary business and/or contractor licenses, his recovery is zero by law.

And of course, one good counterclaim against him if not licensed, would be that he represented himself as being properly licensed (if such were the case) and counter-suing for commercial fraud and misrepresentation and a number of other possible claims, including possible criminal charges as well at least in some states - could potentially make it non-viable for him to try to maintain or enforce the lien.

Also - you said your ex file a lien for his brother - first this is probably a violation of the divorce terms for him to file a lien on the joint property - the brother might be able to, but for your ex to do so sounds like a major conflict of interest and probably a violation of disclosure of financial relationships and debts/assets in the divorce. Also - I doubt your ex (unless acting as his brother's attorney) had a legal right to file a lien - the brother might have, but almost certainly not your ex, so a good lawyer might be able to get it thrown out right off the bat.

Certainly pursue this immediately with attorneys - both because of the potential impact on your asserts, because of the $ amount involved, and also because it sounds mighty fishy - couyld be indicative of other shady disclosure or non-disclosure by your ex that could justify re-opening the divorce case to allocate more of the assets to your share,, depending on the situation details.

One other thing - you said "if taken to court" - bear in mind, assuming you have at least some ownership in the home, that a lien does not just prevent sale before its settlement (sometimes before, sometimes during closing as a first-paid debt before sale proceeds are distributed to the owners), but its existence (considered a default) can also severely damage your credit rating and result in acceleration of other debts with a mutual default clause - credit card accounts, car loans, student loans, any personal loans, etc.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Here is a link to a related question with answers FYI -

Also talk to your attorney about contractor/employee issues - because you are ahead in that he filed a lien (presumably contractor's lien) so that is evidence he considered himself a contractor, not an employee. You do NOT want to get into a situation where he claims he was an employee, so you should have been paying worker's comp insurance, state disability and unemployment, maybe federal and state and even city withholding of taxes, socail security and medicare, etc.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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