Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I am going to deviate from national issues to one which is a big concern in the State of New Mexico: Construction. With the current economy there is none really. But it was beginning to slide off before the economy tanked.

You will not believe the number of people in my area, once the fastest growing part of the state, who have said they will never, never, never hire a contractor again. I am one of those. And my ex-husband and I had an electrical contracting firm. So shouldn't I be pro construction?

I was until I began my small studio addition. I thought I had the right contractor (no not the one in the photo) but I was wrong. But I am going to leave that right there. Suffice it to say we are currently involved in litigation.

The state of New Mexico has a mechanic's lien system. No proof is required on the part of the contractor to place a lien on your property. At one time this right to lien was so abused that contractors placed the lien on the property where they were going to do work at the minute the contract was signed. Amendments were made and now technically they cannot lien your property until 30 days after last day of work and before 120 days have passed. No proof of their claim in necessary at the time of filing though the law says they were suppose to make a legitimate effort to collect before filing.

The lien right or wrong stays on your property an muddies the title for two years whether or not the contractor moves for judgment. If you sell or want to re-finance with the lien on you owe him whatever absurd amount he filed the lien for. Your alternative is to move for judgment against him to have the lien removed. I was told by one attorney that this could cost me $36,000 or more and he wanted $5000 up front. So if the lien was for less I should just pay it. Never mind it was totally unsubstantiated.

More over while the property holder can request arbitration the contractor is not bond to participate. There are lawyers getting rich on this. And a friend tells me contractors that do just enough work to file a lien large enough to get in district court which requires lawyers and then wait till the property owner is scared enough to pay the blackmail demand.

So if contractors are out of work in this current economy I don't think it is all the fault of the economy. But we are going to bail them out with huge shovel ready projects. Sucks doesn't it?