Filing a lien against property is one way to collect on a debt. For example, contractors often file mechanic's liens against homes when the owner or original contractor who hired them does not pay. Then, if the property is sold, the holder of the lien will get a share of the proceeds. However, you need to follow the process to the letter and meet all deadlines, or you might not be able to collect.
Where do I go to file a lien?
To file a lien, contact your local county court to learn more about the process. However, it is smart to also hire a lawyer because the process is complicated and varies from county to county. You will need to prove that you are owed the money. In some states, you may need to send a notice of intent to lien. The FAQ section of the Web site lienmachine.net will be helpful for those in the construction industry.
What if I am a contractor and I haven't been paid?
You will need to file a mechanic's lien. Before you start this process, check your records first to find out if you signed a lien waiver. Many homeowners protect themselves from liens by asking all contractors and subcontractors to sign lien waivers. If the homeowner paid the contractor but didn't pay you, and you signed a lien waiver, then you will not be able to place a lien on that property.
What are my chances of getting paid if I file a lien?
There are no guarantees. One of the downsides is that filing a lien merely puts you in line to get your share of the debtor's money. It is worth keeping in mind that the IRS is always first in line. Plus, hiring a lawyer will take a bite out of the proceeds.
Even if your chances of getting the money are good, filing a lien does not mean you will get it right away. The property will need to be sold, and that may take time.
A lien waiver protects you from contractors sending you the bill and placing a lien on your house if a builder, developer or contractor did not pay for the work.
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