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Can a contractor overcharge and charge for work done incorrectly, then file a mechanic's lien if we don't pay?

New York |

We had a licensed contractor perform some work at our house based on a verbal agreement. We've worked with this person many times in the past and we've verbally requested to be notified of (and approve of) any cost overruns beyond the initial quotes.

After some recent work, we were shocked when our bill came in at double the original quote. The contractor is claiming that the work was more complicated than expected - though the complexity of the job is exactly what we originally discussed. The contractor cut corners and performed some faulty installations. We were also charged to evaluate some mechanical issues, but the conclusions were incorrect.

We're not going to pay the padded overcharges, nor are we going to pay for the faulty evaluation.

Can the contractor file a lien?

Attorney Answers 2


Unfortunately, whether the work is shoddy or well-done, a contractor may lawfully file a lien for payment due. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to file a motion to remove the lien or sue for breach of contract. You may contact me to discuss this matter.

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The answer to whether the contractor can file a mechanic's lien against your property is "yes." The real question is whether the mechanic's lien would be valid and the answer to that is "maybe." First, a contractor can file a mechanic's lien if he or she believes there is money owed for labor or materials provided towards the improvement of the project. Second, whether the work was "shoddy" or in some other way unsatisfactory is an underlying defense to the claim but not a prohibition against filing a mechanic's lien. However, if the mechanic's lien was wilfully exaggerated as you seem to believe then you may be able to invalidate the lien in its entirety and recovery certain damages.

You may find my legal guide on what to do if a mechanic's lien is filed against your property helpful. The guide can be found here:

You may also wish to visit our website for more information on mechanic's liens in the State of New York. We are located at:

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