The statutes contain several alternative requirements depending on specific circumstances. As with all areas of law, there is significantly more nuance than can be addressed in a brief article. The foregoing information is provided as a general guideline, assuming a prime contractor performed work on a single family stand-alone residential property in Wisconsin.
The first and most important step to protecting the contractor's lien rights is to provide timely notice to the poperty owner. Notice of Lien Rights should be provided long before a payment problem arises, and, whether or not the contractor anticipates a problem, the Notice of Lien Rights should be included on every written contract and chould be provided to every customer up front.
The statutes require the notice to be provided by the contractor in the written contract, or, if there is no written contract, to be provided to the owner in writing within 10 days of the beginning of the work.
Notice of Lien Rights Must Include Specified Terms
The format for the Notice of Lien Rights is also specified by statute - the exact language provided in the statute should be included on every contract to ensure the first step in the lien process is in place.
6 Months Minus 30 Days
The actual Claim for Lien must be filed with the County Court within 6 months of the last date that labor or materials were furnished on the job. That seems easy enough, but, a Notice of Intent to File a Lien must also be served on the owner - and that must be served at least 30 days before the filing of the lien.
So you must determine the last day of work or materials, look out 6 months as the absolute deadline for filing the lien, then 30 days prior to that as the absolute deadline for serving a Notice of Intent to File a Claim for Lien on the owner.
Notice of Rights - Notice of Intent - Claim with Clerk
The three crucial elements to validly filing a lien are the Notice of Lien Rights, the Notice of Intent to File a Claim for Lien and the actual filing of the Lien with the Clerk of Court. If any of these elements are missing or late, the lien is not valid, can not be foreclosed upon, and could lead to liability under a "slander of title" claim by the property owner.
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