2011 Cases Involving Mechanic’s Liens

by Davis Brown Law Firm

In 2011, only a handful of Iowa appellate decisions were entered involving mechanic’s liens. None of the holdings from those decisions were exceedingly surprisingly or controversial. 

American Disaster Serv. v. Wagner (Iowa App. 2011): Contractor prevailed against homeowner.

  • The district court enforced a mechanic’s lien filed by a contractor regarding certain work performed to remedy fire damage to a house. The lower court’s decision was fully affirmed on appeal.
  • The court rejected the owner’s lack of substantial performance argument, holding that the contractor had completed 70% of the work, and all such work was completed in workmanlike, before the homeowner began hindering and delaying the contractor’s performance.
  • The court concluded that the additional work that had to be done by a second contractor after the relationship with the first contractor broke down was “extreme remodeling” work that was not part of the contract and was not necessary to repair the fire damage.
  • Practice Pointers:
    • Describe, in great detail, the scope of work in your written contract.
    • Remediation work can be problematic when homeowners may want additional work beyond actual remediation work. Make sure all parties are on the same page regarding scope of work.

Kiefer Const. v. Farrell (Iowa App. 2011): Contractor partially prevailed against homeowner.

  • The district court (partially) enforced a mechanic’s lien filed by a contractor regarding certain work performed regarding an addition built on a house and basement work. The lower court’s decision was fully affirmed on appeal.
  •  The court rejected the owner’s lack of substantial performance argument, holding that the contractor had substantially completed the work and was thus, entitled to recover the contract price of his work, minus deductions for defects or incompletion.
  • Though, the court rejected the contractor’s argument that he should get paid the full contract price because the contractor was denied access to the property to repair the deficiencies, finding that the homeowner had given him the contractor access to repair the work and only denied him access when the remedy work was inadequate.
  • The court rejected the counterclaim by the owner for damages relating to issues with the basement depth because the owner confirmed with the contractor the depth of the basement despite being told about the low water table, and because some of the water damage issues stemmed from a sump pump which was not supplied or installed by the contractor.
  • Practice Pointers:
    • Deductions will be made by the court from the full contract price to account for work not performed or deficiency performed work.
    • The safest route is to clearly document times when a homeowner is advising you to proceed against your recommended course of action and in spite of risks.

Please see full article below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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