What is a Wisconsin construction lien?

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A Wisconsin construction lien is a collection tool to “provide protection for …[contractors, subcontractors and suppliers(1)] who improve(2) the property of others by furnishing materials or labor…" City Lumber & Supply Co. v. Fisher, 256 Wis. 402, 41 N.W.2d 285 (1950).

The lien procedure in Wisconsin provides a contractor with the ability to file a legal claim against the title of the property, and then foreclose on that lien to enforce payment of an outstanding balance for materials or labor which were provided to improve that specific property.

The foreclosure process requires a contractor to file a law suit against the owner(3) of the property, to force the owner to either pay the balance owed, or have the property sold at a sheriff's sale (auction), with the proceeds applied to the debt owed.

(1)"Any 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 s. 779.02, shall have a lien therefor on all interests in the land belonging to its owners." Wis. Stat. § 779.03.

(2)"Improve" or "improvement" includes any building, structure, erection, fixture, demolition, alteration, excavation, filling, grading, tiling, planting, clearing or, landscaping, repairing, or remodeling which is built, erected, made or done on or to land for its benefit. This enumeration is intended as an extension rather than a limitation of the normal meaning and scope of "improve" and "improvement". Wis. Stat. § 779.01(2)(a).

(3)"Owner" means the owner of any interest in land who, personally or through an agent, enters into a contract, express or implied, for the improvement of the land. Agency will be presumed, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, between employer and employee, between spouses, between joint tenants and among tenants in common, but there shall be a similar presumption against agency in all other cases. Wis. Stat. § 779.01(2)(c).


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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