Can a contractor’s lien cost you your home? - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Can a contractor’s lien cost you your home?

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If you own a home you have probably paid someone to do some work around your house, whether it's a new roof or kitchen cabinets. Did you know if that person does not pay their supplier for the materials you could have to pay for it, even if you have already paid once? And if you don't, you could lose your home. It's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- Sometimes it's good to talk to someone from another country to remind you how great it is in America.

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "We come from a country where there are so many geniuses. They can not enter the university, they can not succeed and thank God you live in the United States where there is opportunity."

Shahnaz came from Iran and has seized her opportunities, owning her own home and one for her mother and ...

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "I never knew what could happen."

But after her roof started leaking, she also learned about another side of America.

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "It's very frustrating. It's very frustrating."

To solve the problem, Shahnaz hired a company to replace the roof. $600 down, then $2,400 when they delivered the supplies and $2,400 when they started installing the shingles. That left her owing the roofers $600 and then...

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "Then got a letter from lawyer who represented the supplier that we are putting lien on your property."

According to the contract, Shahnaz only owed the roofers $600 but the supply company wanted $1,200 for the roofing supplies she had already paid the roofer for, plus $650 for their attorneys fees and court costs. Shahnaz called the supply companies lawyer.

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "What are you talking about? I haven't been in court to pay a court fee. 'Go get a lawyer, don't talk to me.' That's what he said. That's what he said."

Turns out the owner of the roofing company filed for bankruptcy, leaving Shahnaz with a lien on her house and a roofing supply company attorney threatening to sue her for $1,842 for the supplies and legal fees.

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "It just hurts you. It's scares you that you are going to lose your house, going to lose your property that you worked all your life for it."

Well Howard, Shahnaz kept her word and paid the roofer but the roofer didn't pay the supply company, leaving her with a lien on her house. So what should she do?

Howard Finkelstein: "Usually you are out of luck and have to pay the lien but Shahnaz got lucky because the supply company was late in sending what's called a notice to owner, informing them that they were supplying materials to the roofer and the homeowner would be responsible to pay them if the roofer did not."

Douglas J. Roberts: "I dealt with this guy before once or twice."

We contacted Doug Roberts, a well respected attorney in the construction business, who offered to help Shahnaz for free.

Douglas J. Roberts: "The law doesn't leave owners at the mercy of contractors."

After looking at the Shahnaz's paperwork, Doug had a solution.

Douglas J. Roberts: "Under Florida law, we can send the balance of $600 to you and that's all we are ever going to have to pay. Here is the check and if they cash it, it's over."

If the supply company didn't accept the $600 and took Shahnaz to court, then they would have to pay her legal fees if they lost.

Doug's strategy worked. They cashed Shahnaz's $600 check and sent this letter releasing the lien on her house, just the way Shahnaz thought it should work in America.

Shahnaz Gharacaghi: "I really appreciate all your help."

Patrick Fraser: "Glad it worked out for her and Shahnaz mentioned losing her house over that construction lien, that's true. They can foreclose on you if you don't pay off the construction lien and how do you protect yourself from a lien if you hire someone? Each time the contractor asks for money, ask for what's called a partial release of lien. That way, if the contractor doesn't pay their supplier or sub contractors, they can't go after the property owner, meaning you."

Sprung a leak in a plan to solve a problem? Want someone to supply some help? Lean on us. We can't install a roof but we can deliver cover from your headache.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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