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OK, so we were gullible (i.e. stupid)


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Here's the story, at least our side of it.

We purchased an old Victorian house and are doing most of the renovations ourselves. However, with our work schedules and budget, sometimes things overwhelm us. Anyway, last summer a man in town offered to help us rebuild the wrap-around porch. He told us he could do it for "around $2,500". We reached an agreement and he started work the following week. I asked him for a written estimate, and he said he'd get one done, but never did.

The first morning he showed up at 8:30 a.m. with two other workers, all of them with a beer in their hand. They drank all day (and every day thereafter) while they were working. After about three weeks, he took us aside and told us that the materials were costing more than he had originally planned, and it "could possibly cost closer to $5,000." We told him we understood, and he kept working. He also changed workers several times during that time, and even had some teenage girls "working". That should have thrown up another red flag, but we were so relieved that the porch was finally getting done that we once again overlooked it.

At the end of the day, we would check the work they'd done, and by the end of the third week we were having to re-do at least 90% of it because it was done wrong...The concrete footings were even wrong. When we tried to talk to him about it, he would get very huffy and inform us that HE was the contractor and HE knew more than we did. But we still had to fix the work.

Finally out of frustration we told him that we would finish it ourselves, since we were having to redo everything anyway, and that was that. We asked him for an itemized bill and we would take care of it. About a month later, he sent us a bill. It was $2,500 for materials and $7,800 labor for a total of TEN THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS! No itemization, no nothing. We tried to call him to discuss it, but his home phone and cell phone had both been disconnected. We drove past his house, but he was never there.

Well, Friday we got a letter from the court house telling us he'd filed a mechanic's lien against our house. What can we do? We can't find him, we can't get an itemized account of his expenses, and we have a lien against our house.

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UGH...that really sucks. Sorry you're having to go through this. Having worked in construction all my adult life, I know exactly the kind of people you're dealing with.

I *am* jealous of your Victorian though. :wink:

I know NOTHING about leins...but I'll try this anyhow.

I would look into suing him for breach of contract. It doesn't matter that you didn't have anything written down - it's an oral contract, which are just as binding. Sure it'll be his word against yours...but look at who you're dealing with. I'll bet there's someone else out there who will attest to his lack of skill/competence.

Did you pay him anything at all? Did you happen to take any pictures of the work before/during/after? Do you have receipts for the stuff you bought in order to repair his mistakes (credit card statements, bank statements if you used a debit card, etc)?

It might be a bit of a battle, but if you can show your side of the story and show you attempted to contact him (note the phone disconnects & drive-bys, etc). Write down (like you did here) every detail you can think of. Then go see a lawyer. Paying their fee will be worth it if they can get the lein removed.

Good luck to you. :D

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In Oklahoma it is a Felony to file "bogus" mechanic's liens.

Oklahoma Statutes Citationized

Title 42. Liens

Chapter 3

Section 142.4 - Fraudulent Statement - Felony.

Cite as: O.S. §, __ __

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Any original contractor who falsifies any statement regarding liens on labor or material to any owner of a dwelling, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony.

Check you local laws.

Since he never gave you a price quote this may apply.

Oklahoma Statutes Citationized

Title 42. Liens

Chapter 3

Section 142.1 - Enforcement of Lien against Owner-occupied Dwelling - Notice to Owner.

Cite as: O.S. §, __ __

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No lien arising under the provisions of Sections 141 through 153 of this title which affects property presently occupied as a dwelling by an owner shall be enforceable unless, prior to the first performance of labor or the first furnishing of materials by the lien claimant, the original contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or materialman shall have provided to one of the owners a written notice which shall include substantially the following language:

NOTICE TO OWNER

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED THAT ANY PERSON

PERFORMING LABOR ON YOUR PROPERTY OR

FURNISHING MATERIALS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION,

REPAIR, OR IMPROVEMENT OF YOUR PROPERTY WILL

BE ENTITLED TO A LIEN AGAINST YOUR PROPERTY

IF HE IS NOT PAID IN FULL, EVEN THOUGH YOU

MAY HAVE PAID THE FULL CONTRACT PRICE TO YOUR

CONTRACTOR. THIS COULD RESULT IN YOUR PAYING

FOR LABOR AND MATERIALS TWICE. THIS LIEN CAN

BE ENFORCED BY THE SALE OF YOUR PROPERTY. TO

AVOID THIS RESULT, YOU MAY DEMAND FROM YOUR

CONTRACTOR LIEN WAIVERS FROM ALL PERSONS

PERFORMING LABOR OR FURNISHING MATERIALS FOR

THE WORK ON YOUR PROPERTY. YOU MAY WITHHOLD

PAYMENT TO THE CONTRACTOR IN THE AMOUNT OF

ANY UNPAID CLAIMS FOR LABOR OR MATERIALS.

YOU ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEMAND FROM YOUR

CONTRACTOR A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL LABORERS

AND MATERIAL SUPPLIERS UNDER YOUR CONTRACT,

AND THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE FROM THEM IF THEY

HAVE BEEN PAID FOR LABOR PERFORMED AND

MATERIALS FURNISHED.

I guess they have to scream at you!!!!! :shock:

How long from the time the "last" work was done until the lien was filed. In Okla they have 120 days to file.

Also ask how long a valid lien is good for before it drops off. In Oklahoma it is one year.

Oklahoma Statutes Citationized

Title 42. Liens

Chapter 3

Section 149 - Lien - Suit within One Year.

Cite as: O.S. §, __ __

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The lien provided for in the preceding section shall not be effective unless suit shall be brought within one (1) year after it accrued.

Call the courthouse and ask about how to take care of this. The DA may want to take a look at it.

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and she told me that all they have as far as an "accounting of the amount owed" was "materials $2,500, labor $7,800". That's all they require to file a lien on somebody's home? What a scam!

She told me to hire an attorney. She wasn't very helpful at all. It looks like this is gonna cost us a bundle no matter what we do.

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You need to document everything he did and what you had to do to repair it. Show justification for firing him and countersue for lack of consideration on the oral contract.

Be blunt. Tell the court he arrived to do work under influence as, did his staff; that he did not perform the work for which he was contracted to building code; etc.

If you had to re-do 90% of what he worked on to meet building code, then he is entitled to 10%...no more. Speaking of building code, did he get permits fromt he city to do the construction work? I bet not. Is his General Contractor license with the State in order? I bet not there too. Were his laborers trained construction workers? You can say that was a verbal stipulation of the contract...Bet they weren't.

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http://www.legis.state.ia.us/IowaLaw.html

Look under the Iowa Legisature Code page

http://www.legis.state.ia.us/Current/tablesandindex/Index-JKL.htm

CHAPTER 572 MECHANIC'S LIEN

572.9 Time of filing.

The statement or account required by section 572.8 shall be filed by a principal contractor or subcontractor within ninety days from the date on which the last of the material was furnished or the last of the labor was performed. A failure to file the statement or account within the ninety-day period does not defeat the lien, except as otherwise provided in this chapter

When was the work completed and the lien filed?

572.13 Liability of owner to original contractor.

1. An owner of a building, land, or improvement upon which a mechanic's lien of a subcontractor may be filed, is not required to pay the original contractor for compensation for work done or material furnished for the building, land, or improvement until the expiration of ninety days from the completion of the building or improvement unless the original contractor furnishes to the owner one of the following:

a. Receipts and waivers of claims for mechanics' liens, signed by all persons who furnished material or performed labor for the building, land, or improvement.

b. A good and sufficient bond to be approved by the owner, conditioned that the owner shall be held harmless from any loss which the owner may sustain by reason of the filing of mechanics' liens by subcontractors.

2. An original contractor who enters into a contract for an owner-occupied dwelling and who has contracted or will contract with a subcontractor to provide labor or furnish material for the dwelling shall include the following notice in any written contract with the owner and shall provide the owner with a copy of the written contract:

"Persons or companies furnishing labor or materials for the improvement of real property may enforce a lien upon the improved property if they are not paid for their contributions, even if the parties have no direct contractual relationship with the owner."

If no written contract ( this would be you) is entered into between the original contractor and the dwelling owner, the original contractor shall, within ten days of commencement of work on the dwelling, provide written notice to the dwelling owner stating the name and address of all subcontractors that the contractor intends to use for the construction and, that the subcontractors or suppliers may have lien rights in the event they are not paid for their labor or material used on this site; and the notice shall be updated as additional subcontractors and suppliers are used from the names disclosed on earlier notices.

An original contractor who fails to provide notice under this section is not entitled to the lien and remedy provided by this chapter as they pertain to any labor performed or material furnished by a subcontractor not included in the notice.

Hope this points you in the right direction.

From the looks of it you may be able to counter sue and not owe him anything. I would still that the District Atty office and see what they can do.

Good luck.

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We told him to quit & we would finish last October (2004). His last bill was on October 20, 2004. The work still isn't completed, because of winter weather. But most of the brickwork is done, thanks to my husband. The lien was filed February 25, 2005.

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Well it seems he is out of luck on all accounts.

If I read the situation right, he did not give you the names and addresses of all the subcontractors he hired (the beer swillers and the teens) within 10 days of starting work.

He gets no lien. Go to the courthouse and get it overturned. Talk to the clerk about how to file the proper paperwork.

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From what you have told us and what the statutes read he filed the lien on day 128 and he only had 90 days. He is SOL.

I will look to see if there is and statutes covering false filings.

In the mean time if the courthouse can't help contact a lawyer. A lot of them will give a free initial meeting.

RedDog

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I contacted a lawyer today, and I faxed her a copy of the mechanics lien.

She said she thinks that the contractor isn't really serious about it, and just wants to be a thorn in our side, but that she could file a motion to force him to produce proof to the court within 30 days.

She also says that it'll "just fall off" in a certain period of time, meaning that if he doesn't file proof that in about 30 days it'll more or less disappear. I don't care. This is a black mark on our credit, and God knows we don't need more of those! We've been struggling ever since my divorce to straighten out my credit.

Thank you everybody! I really, TRULY appreciate your help! You've made a very difficult situation more manageable.

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Just remember you are not alone.

Is this listed on your CR? How is it a black mark?

Just being a lien on your house shouldn't affect you in anyway except when you try to sell or refinance your house. Like the lawyer said, if he doesn't follow thru the lien will just disappear (at least in Oklahoma anyway).

Keep us posted on what happens.

Best of luck.

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Wow! Victorian homeowners/renovators are people close to my heart, since I have a small 1885 victorian Queen Anne farmhouse in CA. Started work on it 30 years ago; I'm still going. Not to discourage you, because I was not financially prepared or educated well enough in the skill of estimating accurately, budgets, credit, etc. Common story.

More to the point, CA law is probably not exactly the same as Iowa, but here a Small Claims court ($5000 limit, but higher in some states) would automatically find in your favor if your "carpenter" did not have a contractor's license for any work (labor + materials) over $500.00. I would think you could sue him (in SCC) for your damages, time and effort in redoing his work, but you must create a paper trail (dates, times, photos all along the way) (with ANY work crew) and if he doesn't show in court, you would get a judgement and then try to collect.

He must live somewhere. For $100-200, you can get a service to find him (try the ads in the newspapers/magazines published for lawyers in your area or online). They'll turn up his assets.

Think of it this way, if you don't teach/stop this guy from doing this, he'll go on doing it to others. He could get someone physically hurt. You might even get some money back.

If he is state licensed, write a letter of complaint to the state contractors' board there. Good luck! (BTW, I'd like to know if a lien can indeed hurt your credit. Are they reported to the CRAs?

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