The customer owes me a substantial amount of money. Am I too late to properly file a lien due to lack of lien forms being filed earlier, or do I still have time?

Construction Lien Forms for All States

First Name: Tim
What state is the project located in?: Wisconsin
What is your relation to the project: GC/Sub
Question: Hi Chad, I am curious about my lien rights and processes needed to properly take action with a couple who I have not been able to get in contact with. The job has been done for approximately 2 months and they owe me a substantial amount of money. Long story short. Am I too late to properly file a lien due to lack of lien forms being filed earlier? do I still have time? Are you and your group available to review cases? or is this simply a free service via the internet? If you are available, what city do you work from? Thanks so much and if I did not include enough information please let me know and I'll gladly elaborate. Tim


Hi Tim:

As a general contractor, assuming this is a single family residence construction project, if your contract with the owner did not contain the requisite lien notice language, or if you did not provide the owner with the lien notice language within 10 days of commencing work, you will have difficulties filing a lien.

You would still have the option of suing the owner for a breach of contract, but many times owners counterclaim for defective workmanship or fraud. So, any analysis to sue for a breach should account for the risk and expense associated with potential counterclaims. Also, unless your contract allows for recovery of fees for collection, your attorneys' fees would not be reimbursed.

Under Wis. Stat. § 779.02, a prime contractor on a private small project must include the notice below in a written contract or proposal, if there is a written contract. If there is no written contract with the owner, the prime contractor must serve the owner of the property with the notice stated below within ten (10) days after first providing labor, materials or services. If printed, a prime contractor's lien notice must state in 8 point, bold font, the following:

As required by the Wisconsin construction lien law, claimant hereby notifies owner that persons or companies performing, furnishing, or procuring labor, services, materials, plans, or specifications for the construction on owners land may have lien rights on owners land and buildings if not paid. Those entitled to lien rights, in addition to the undersigned claimant, are those who contract directly with the owner or those who give the owner notice within 60 days after they first perform, furnish, or procure labor, services, materials, plans or specifications for the construction. Accordingly, owner probably will receive notices from those who perform, furnish, or procure labor, services, materials, plans, or specifications for the construction, and should give a copy of each notice received to the mortgage lender, if any. Claimant agrees to cooperate with the owner and the owners lender, if any, to see that all potential lien claimants are duly paid.

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.

Ask Mark your Wisconsin construction law question(s)

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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