What is the procedure to perfect a construction lien in Wisconsin?

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CAUTION! The lien perfection process within Wisconsin is complex, and differs depending on the type of construction project (e.g., private, public, small, large, residential, commercial, or bonded), and the type of lien claimant (e.g., prime or general contractor, subcontractor, or supplier).

Additionally, since the statutes governing the lien process are modified by the legislature from time to time, any inquirer must refer to the current statutes.

In order to perfect a lien, a contractor should consult with an attorney to ensure that the proper process is followed. If a contractor incorrectly files a lien, the contractor might subject itself to a slander of title claim by the owner.

With that being said, generally, under the 2005−06 Wis. Stats. database, updated and current through August 31, 2007 and 2007 Wis. Act 19, found at: www.legis.state.wi.us/statutes/Stat0779.pdf, in Wisconsin, depending on the type of claimant and type of project, a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier may be required to:
  1. Provide a Wisconsin Notice of Lien Rights: to an Owner with a properly completed Notice of Lien Rights form. The content required within these notices and the specific timing of these types of notices are provided in Wis. Stat. § 779.02 Typically the deadline for these types of notices is either within 10, 30 or 60 days of the first date that the claimant provided labor or materials to the property (again, depending on the nature of the claimant and type of project).
  2. Provide a Wisconsin Notice of Intent to File Lien: to an owner with a properly completed Notice of Intent to File Lien form. The content required within these notices and the specific timing of this notice is also provided in Wis. Stat. Chp. 779. Typically the deadline for this notice is at least thirty (30) days prior to the filing of a lien claim, and within 5 months of the last date that the claimant provided labor or materials to the property.
  3. File a Wisconsin Claim for Lien: A claimant must file an original and 2 signed, copies of a Wisconsin "Claim for Lien" form with the clerk of circuit court in the county where the property is located, at least thirty (30) days after service of the notice of intent to file claim for lien, but within, and no later than, 6 months from the date that the claimant last performed substantial work on or provided materials to the property. This form must also contain specific information as required by Chp. 779, see Wis. Stat. § 779.06-09.
  4. Serve Owner: Within and no later than, 30 days after the date that the "Claim for Lien" form was filed, the authenticated copies obtained in Step 3 must be served on the owner by one of the required methods, including personal service, or registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.
  5. File Lawsuit: Within and no later than, 2 years from the date of the filing of the "Claim for Lien" form, in order to enforce the lien, a claimant must file a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien.

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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