Legal insights for businesses

Contractors: What Are Your Legal Rights?

April 7, 2017

From time to time, we get asked by contractors and subcontractors what their lien rights are. Because rights can be lost if proper timelines and procedures are not followed, it is helpful to know the rules before starting a project, rather than waiting until it appears that payment might be a problem.

Following is a summary of the procedure for claiming a construction lien under Wisconsin law for a prime contractor that is giving notice after substantial work has already been performed on a private, unbonded, commercial project.

Procedures are different for public and certain residential projects—for example, a separate, earlier, notice is required for many residential projects.  Procedures for subcontractors also are different (for example, if the prime contractor has furnished a payment bond, subcontractors generally have no lien), but in general for a private, unbonded, commercial project, the same procedure applies to subcontractors.

Wisconsin Statutes Section 779.06 provides the procedure and time limits for filing claim and beginning an action on a construction lien for a private, unbonded, commercial project.

TIMING:

  1. A Notice of Intention to File Claim for Lien (“Notice”) must be served upon the owner of the property at least 30 days prior to filing a Claim for Lien and, due to the deadline in item 2 below, within five months of the date of last labor, services, etc.
  2. The Claim for Lien (“Claim”) itself must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court in the County where the property affected by the lien is located within 6 months of the date the lien claimant performed the last labor, services, etc.
  3. A copy of the Claim must be served upon the property owner within 30 days of being filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court.
  4. Any complaint (lawsuit) must be filed within two years of filing the claim.  Failure to file a complaint results in the lien lapsing.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Service of the Notice may be made by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and is complete upon mailing.
  2. The Claim, when filed, must have a copy of the Notice attached to it and be signed by the claimant or attorney.  The Claim must contain basic information about the nature of the claim, including a statement of the contract or demand upon which the claim is founded, the names for the claimant and the person against whom the claim is filed, the last date of work, etc.
  3. If the claimant files a Complaint, the claimant must also record a Lis Pendens.

This is only a brief summary of the Wisconsin construction lien rules for private, unbonded, commercial projects, and is not legal advice. If you have specific questions on Wisconsin construction liens, consult with your own attorney.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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