It is true that when having renovation work done on your property, if the general contractor hires a sub-contractor to perform duties and doesn't pay him...we as homeowners are liable. It was the general contractor who hired the sub-contractor with no involvement from us as the homeowner's.
A subcontractor can place a mechanic's lien against your home if he was not paid by the general contractor that you hired only if you have not paid the general contractor. If you have paid the general contractor, then the subcontractor's lien rights are extinguished and his only remedy is to sue the general contractor. However, if you have not paid the general contractor, then the subcontractor is permitted to file the lien. The lien law is very specific about what must be in the lien, when it must be filed (if you have a single family home it must be filed within 4 months of the subcontractor's last work or service at your home) and how it must be served. If you believe that the lien is improper, I suggest that you speak to a construction attorney in your area to discuss the process for removing the lien. You may also want to do a search in the "Legal Guides" section here on AVVO and take a look at the two guides that I have written regarding mechanic's liens. One is a guide about what to do when a mechanic's lien is filed against your property and the other is a guide about mechanic's liens frequently asked questions. You can also click on my profile and scroll down to view the guides that I have written that way. Good luck.
Construction / Development Lawyer
This information is given for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship exists between us.
The answer to your quesation depends on where you live as each state has its own rules for construction liens.
In Florida a subcontractor that has served a notice to owner on the owner within 45 days of the first day of the subs work can record a lien against your property for up to 90 days after the last day the sub worked at your property.
Once you receive a Notice to Owner from a subcontractor or supplier you have to make sure you get a release of lien from that contractor for any work or materials that were provided during the period for which are paying the subcontractor.
As the statutes vary substantially from state to state you need to discuss this matter with an attorney that practices in the state in which the property is located.