I signed a contract for home
renovations. The contact presented
the final bill with insurance and
deposit included. We paid because he
threatened to put a lien on our
house. I wrote final payment on the
check. He never completed anything
on the punch list. So we did the
completion ourselves. Then, 5
months after that last payment, he
presented us with a bill for things he
forgot to charge for. He subtracted
the cost of some of the uncompleted
punch list items but overlooked
others. My question: Is it legal for
him to present a bill after the final
bill? Can he put a lien on my house 5
months after the last work was
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: contract law
Your question asks a number of things, that unfortunately, depend heavily on some of the other circumstances and facts surrounding your dispute. I will, however, attempt to answer as many of your inquiries as possible, and give you a little information about the situation you now face.
First, regarding the lien. Construction liens are used very frequently by contractors, but in large part, they are used incorrectly. The lien statutes are hyper-technical in louisiana, which means that they must be followed by contractors to the letter.
Based on your assertion that the lien was placed on your home 5 months after work was done, I would bet that the lien is late. In Louisiana, a contractor may typically lien a project within 60 days from the project's substantial completion. In other words, if the work was complete for more than 60 days, then the contractors are not allowed to file the lien.
If the work was renovation work (as opposed to new construction), and it was performed on your home...the contractor must have provided you with a "Notice of Lien Rights" before work began. This is a one page document that requires your signature. You can learn about this notice, and see an example of what this document looks like, by reading this article on our blog:
Second, in regard to the after-the-fact billing, this issue is more complex. While it seems odd and out of sync, the fact that the bill comes months after work is performed does not nullify its validity. If the work was done, and not paid for, you will likely be indebted to the contractor for that amount. If the work was not done, or you paid for the work, you should not owe the contractor.
where do you go from here?
1) You can seek to remove the lien. If it is filed improperly, you can bring a summary action to the courts to have the lien removed. If you win, you may be entitled to an award of attorneys fees and penalties. While you may need to go through a court proceeding, sometimes a lawyer's review of the lien and a threatening letter may be enough to get the lien removed.
Proceedings to have the lien removed can cost you in legal expenses between $3000 - $5000.
2) You can wait to be sued for payment or make payment. If you owe the contractor money, you might want to make payment to avoid legal expenses and a legal proceeding. If you don't, you may want to dispute the validity of the lien, or simply wait to be sued. It is not in your interest to sue the contractor (except to remove the lien) if its his position that you owe him money. Make the contractor take steps to collect from you...and then hire counsel to defend yourself from the suit.
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