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Don't get stuck holding the contractor's bag

You may have lived in your current Arizona home for more than a decade before you were able to think about investing in some home improvement projects. Did you buy a fixer-upper? If so, you may fondly recall the dreams you and your spouse had when you took your first steps through the house you later came to love as home. You knew there would be months, perhaps years of work ahead, but you saw it as an opportunity to create your dream house, together.

As time went on, life may have thrown a few curve balls your way, as it often does for most people. While you were doing your best to make ends meet, you put your home improvement projects on hold. Once you finally were able to re-do your kitchen, you hoped everything would go as planned, and it did; that is, until your general contractor failed to pay the supplier for your cabinetry. Now, you're facing a mechanic's lien on your home.

What is that and what should you do about it?

You may be surprised to learn that a subcontractor could hold you legally accountable for your contractor's failure to satisfy a debt. After all, you paid for your cabinets in full; is it really possible that you would be made to pay twice? The answer is yes, unless you're able to rectify the situation. Below, is some helpful information that may point you in the right direction toward a solution to your problem:

  • Although you may not agree, the law technically considers the supplier's need for payment greater than your need for home improvement.
  • You don't have to accept a mechanic's lien lying down; you can file a legal claim of your own against the general contractor who failed to pay the supplier.
  • The greatest risk you face is that your home could be sold out from under you to satisfy the debt, if necessary.
  • If the general contractor doesn't have the money (perhaps it was frivolously spent elsewhere) it may take a long time to obtain compensation for damages. It is possible that the state could garnish the contractor's wages, but that still leaves you holding the bag in immediate circumstances.
  • There's a statute of limitation regarding how much time may pass before a supplier files a mechanic's lien. If time expires before a supplier files a lien, it is not legally enforceable.
  • You will likely want to obtain a court order to clear your property of the lien, even if the subcontractor failed to file it in time.

It's understandable you'd be furious if you paid good money to finally restore your kitchen after years of scrimping, saving and waiting, only to learn your home is at risk in a mechanic's lien. If you know your rights and where to seek support, you may able to resolve the problem before it's too late.

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