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Can our contractor put a lien on our home?

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Posted by: from Toronto
6/29/2020 at 1:26:09 AM

I hired a contractor to remove my carpet and refinish the hardwood underneath in the family room and to install hardwood on my stairs. He asked for 4000 and we gave him $1500 upfront. Yesterday he started staining the wood floors, but he did a terrible job with streaks everywhere and blotchy patches. He installed the hardwood steps but still has to install railings and do finishing. What he did with the stairs so far is also below average work and just sloppy. So anyway, he got all upset that we didn't like the work done so far and he said he doesn't want to continue but we need to pay him $1000 for the work he did. We didn't of course, because why would we pay him anymore money for work that's not even finished. He said he will put a lien on our house. Can he do that when he didn't finish the work and he walked out on the job himself? We don't have a contract. He has no way of establishing that he did work for us.

REPLIES (7)
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Date/Time6/29/2020 at 6:48:57 AM

Helli Lidah,

Do you have anything in writing with this guy?

Sounds like you hired a handy man and not a contractor.

Technically without a written contract or proof of the agreement you have ,it will not stand in court. Just simply tell him that you need to hire a professional contractor to redo all his work and you'll be claiming back the $1500 you already paid him which seems like wasted money.

He can try to put a lien but he will need documentation

if there's no.proof whatsoever.

Regards

Paul

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Date/Time6/29/2020 at 9:49:19 AM

As long as he has nothing written between each other, will hard for him to proof it as well as putting a lien it cost a bit of money. On the other hand the $4000 to do such work is a bit cheap and that's why his quality is not good and you should expect that from the beginning. He is for sure not a professional guy to do such job?

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Chris from KP Construction in Toronto
Date/Time6/29/2020 at 2:10:49 PM

I want to preface my reply with stating that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. For legal advice you should talk to a lawyer.

From my own personal experience, yes, a contractor can put a lien on your home. The lien will cost the contractor at least $3K to perfect (officially file). What happens is that he may place a lien on the home for his cost. Once the lien is filed you would then have to address this. You could get the lien removed by simply paying the lien which is then held by the court until the issue is resolved in court. If you pay the lien, your money is not lost. It held by the court. It would then move to small claims. If the contractor wins the case, the lien goes to pay the contractor. If he loses, the lien is returned to you and then you could sue him for your legal costs.

In my opinion, a contractor has to weigh a few things. Is the value of the dispute worth the time and money to file the lien? If the amount is less than $5K, he may not think it is worth it. Do I have a reasonable case in proving my claim? If not, he will be out the claim amount plus his legal fees plus your legal fees.

You really should speak to a lawyer if you are concerned but right now, based on the amounts you are talking about, I would say that it is just an idol threat. Hope this helps. Please speak to a lawyer for actual legal advice.

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Date/Time6/30/2020 at 9:24:20 AM

Sorry about your bad experience, this happens to often.

As much as he left a sour taste have you tried asking him to fix the flooring?

Best to use the $1000 dollars to sand the floor down again and do it over again.

Make sure the new contractor explains how he will prep the floor. He should use a wood conditioner as this will prevent streaks. Using a polyurethane floor finish for us stands the time of the hardwood.

Good luck and sorry about your experience.

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Date/Time6/30/2020 at 10:43:47 AM

By the way he isn't going to put a lien on your house as this is a scare tactic to get money and considering it isn't that much it'll cost him more to do so.

Getting involved with lawyers and courts cost more money then what he wants and it won't be worth his time.

Don't worry about it and just make sure you explain why you can't pay. As long as its clear To him that can be held accountable if he does proceed. He will most likely lose in court as homeowners have homeowners protection from things like this. Just make sure you record everything in a book as this can be used in court if he chooses to do so.

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Date/Time7/1/2020 at 3:05:44 PM

Hi Lidah,

Unfortunately this happens all too often in this industry.

To clarify a few points made previously and to answer your question:

1) Yes, a contractor can file a lien against your house.

2) If he files it him/herself it does not cost very much money at all.

3) You do not need a written contract to file a lien, however it certainly helps.

4) They have 45 days from their last performance of substantial work to file the lien.

5) If the contractor does file a lien, they have 45 days to perfect the lien, which simply means they must commence an action through the courts.

6) All liens, regardless of their value are heard in the Superior Court not Small Claims.

7) If they do not perfect the lien in the specified time period, it will expire and they lose any claim rights.

It is likely an idle threat, however you should not ignore the possibility.

More importantly, if the work they performed was refinishing existing hardwood flooring and they sanded the flooring prior to finishing (which they absolutely should have done), there certainly exists the possibility that the floor has "used up it's lives", meaning the floor may not have enough material left for another sanding and finishing.

If this is the case and the contractor can be found to have caused damage to your floor that now must be replaced, they could quite likely be on the hook for far more money then the balance of their verbal contract.

It might serve you well to have this discussion with the contractor and let them know that you are considering seeking legal council to litigate the matter as it may prove expensive to correct his/her mistakes.

Be careful too if this action causes him to "give up" and cease communication, because you may well need to pursue him/her for remediation costs.

It might be wise to have a discussion with a lawyer (in the construction field) to seek advice.

Best of luck

Jason Irving

Cedarfalls Building Consultants Limited

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Mark from CMJ Renovations in Oakville
Date/Time7/5/2020 at 6:16:44 PM

Good Day, bottom line the cost is not worth him putting a lien on the house, I hate to say it but its one of those you got what you paid for, the estimate was way to low for the quality of work required to complete and re finish a stair case. Best of luck but I don't think you will hear from him again.

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