Can a construction lien be filed in Wisconsin by an equipment rental company?

QUESTION: We have a subcontractor who has not paid the company he rented his lifts from. Our question is does the lift company actually have lien rights seeing their product isn't actually becoming a permanent part of the structure. Mary

ANSWER: Not considering the type of construction project or whether proper notices were filed, my opinion is probably not. The question at issue was answered by a Wisconsin court in 1930 in the negative, while generally stated, "[a]ny person who performs, furnishes, or procures any work, labor, service, materials, plans, or specifications, used or consumed for the improvement of land, and who complies with [Wis. Stat. §] 779.02 - Wisconsin Lien Law Statutes - has the right to a construction lien in Wisconsin - What is a construction lien?.

Wis. Stat. § 779.03 - Wisconsin Lien Law Statutes - the court stated: "It is universally held that no mechanic's lien arises from the renting of machinery to the contractor in order to enable him to prosecute his work. … This rule has been expressly approved in this state. McAuliffe v. Jorgenson, 107 Wis. 132, 82 N. W. 706; Lohman v. Peterson, 87 Wis. 227, 58 N. W. 407. The reason for the rule may be stated to be that a mechanic's lien is given only for labor and materials which are actually incorporated into the building, and that a machine, such as the steam engine here under consideration, constitutes neither labor nor material entering into the construction but is a part of the plant of the contractor." Muller v. Wohlust, 203 Wis. 203, 203-04, 233 N.W. 88, 88-89 (1930) (foreign citations omitted).

Thank you to Attorney Chad Koplien for the above answer. Chad practiced in construction law and litigatation for 13 years before committing to service in the Wisconsin National Guard as a judge advocate and a state government position. Attorney Mark Hinkston, recommended by Chad, is now answering questions submitted by my readers.

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The information on these pages provides legal information about Wisconsin statutes designed to help contractors acquire general background information on construction liens in Wisconsin. It is important to note that legal information is not the same as legal advice. Legal advice is the application of the specific applicable laws to a contractor's specific fact scenario. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, you must retain a lawyer, and enter into an attorney-client relationship if you want to obtain professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

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