Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mechanics Lien Laws in New Mexico

The mechanic's lien in New Mexico is being used and abused to the detriment of homeowners and contractors alike. With current New Mexico laws regarding the placement of mechanic's liens no proof is required before placing a cloud over an owner's title.

To file a lien in any court in New Mexico the person filing the lien does not have to prove they are a licensed contractor, had a legitimate contract with the person named in the lien, or are actually owned any monies let alone the amount claimed. The lien, once placed rightly or wrongly, clouds the title of the homeowner for two years making it next to impossible for them to refinance or sell without paying the sum named in the lien.

Removal of the lien before the two years requires going to court to prove they are innocent; a concept which runs counter of the belief that all men are innocent until proven guilty. When I sought legal advice as to the removal of a lien on my property by a contractor no longer licensed I was told to just pay him as the amount owed was less than the legal fees it would cost to go to court. This, in opinion, amounts to legalized blackmail.

A contractor can at any time within that two years move for judgment. And the homeowner can actually have their home foreclosed on and sold out from under them to settle lien even if it is a fraction of the worth of the house. The only recourse for the homeowner is to participate in a lengthy and costly legal action for which there seems to be no alternative or affordable path even if the lien was illegally placed, the contractor has no proof of the contract, or the amount owed. And until the matter is settled in court the title of the property is still clouded and the homeowner hog tied. In my instance the legal action took four and a half years. And extends beyond the license of the contractor or the legal standing of his now defunct company.

Regardless of the legal rightness of either side of the argument changes need to be made in New Mexico's Mechanic's lien laws to avoid the tying up of court time, the abuse by contractors, and the victimization of homeowners.

Other states have amended their mechanic lien laws to be more fair. But as the law currently stands in New Mexico it is merely a legalized form of black mail which damages everyone involved. I have lots of friends that have been a victim of the Mechanic's Lien and who, like me, would never, ever hire a contractor again. So this law damages the construction industry as well as homeowners and the real estate market. And the Construction Industries division does little to monitor this process and its abuse.

After a two and a half year deliberation on the court trial the judge finally found in my favor and released the lien on my property. He found that the contractor did not have a case. I fortunately was assisted in my battle by New Mexico Legal Aid because they saw this as a problem many homeowners that could not afford to fight had and were subsequently losing their homes.

I would be more than happy to meet with any New Mexico legislator willing to take on this miscarriage of equal rights before the law and testify before any committee or answer any questions as to my personal experience with this abusive law.