If you are a contractor, or a supplier of materials to a contractor, you have one of the most powerful collection tools at your disposal – the construction lien.
If you are not paid by your customer, the law allows you to place a lien on real estate to secure your debt.
As you might expect, nothing this powerful comes without some strings attached. If you are a contractor dealing directly with a residential homeowner, you must have certain notices, and your license number, in your written contract with the homeowner. If you are a subcontractor, you must send the homeowner written notice so he doesn’t pay the contractor without making arrangements for you to get paid, too.
In addition, you must FILE a lien at the register of deeds office within 90 days of the last day of WORK on the project. This deadline is read very strictly and is not extended if you went back to the project simply to perform warranty work or to pick up your tools. In addition, the lien must be RECEIVED by the register of deeds office (not just "in the mail") by the 90th day from the last day of work on the project, or it is invalid.
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