Supplier to sub-subcontractor filing lien on house

May 24, 2012 23:48 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

A supplier to a sub-subcontractor filed a mechanic’s lien on my house.  I have paid the contractor, and he has paid all of his bills.  Yet my house is being held under a “cloud” from an unknown vendor to an unknown sub-subcontractor. The amount is just over $2,000.  What are my options when dealing with a business that is trying to intimidate me into paying twice?

Consumer Ed says: 

First, please recognize that there is a possibility this is a fraudulent Claim of Lien.  Some scammers place mechanic's liens on real property in an attempt to get money when the house is later sold, claiming that money was owed for work done on the house, which in reality was never done.  This type of scam is not uncommon.

Further, if the party which filed the Claim of Lien meets the legal definition of “a supplier to a sub-subcontractor” as you state, then a possible issue arises as to whether the supplier is contractually too remote to have the right to make out a valid lien claim. The test is whether your contractor knew of the supplier’s connection to the construction work at the time the materials were furnished.

If the supplier did make itself known to your contractor, then it becomes vital to determine if the contractor properly paid over monies ultimately owed the supplier and, if not, then you can be held responsible for ensuring that anyone contributing labor or materials to improve your property gets paid.  Fortunately, the law provides ways that you may in some cases be able to use to get rid of a claim of lien that is improperly worded or filed. If you or your attorney identifies a defect in the lien, you may be able to convince the lien claimant to cancel the lien or, failing that, you can then file a Notice of Contest.  Examples of possible defects include, but are not limited to:  not filing the Claim of Lien within 90 days of completion of the work; failure to send a copy of the Claim of Lien via registered or certified mail or overnight delivery to the property owner within two business days after filing; and incorrectly identifying the property, its location or the name of the property owner. It is also possible that either the supplier or a party in the chain above the supplier has provided a partial waiver of lien in return for receiving a partial payment, and this should be ascertained as well.

A Notice of Contest is a document which can be filed in the real estate records of your county and mailed to the lien claimant, demanding that the lien claimant file suit or have the lien expire within 60 days. Forms for the Notice of Contest are contained in Title 44 of the Georgia Code.

If you are not planning to move in the next year, and the Claim of Lien is for a low dollar amount that you do not expect the lien claimant to file suit over, then you may want to just wait it out until the lien expires on its own within twelve months.  A lot of liens are wiped out this way each year, because the party who filed the lien claim never files a lawsuit.  This is especially true if the amount of the lien does not warrant the expense of a lawsuit.

If you do intend to sell your home soon, you may want to bond off the lien claim.  The lien claim will then be against the bond instead of your home.

In any event, because the subject of mechanic’s liens is quite complex, this is especially a matter about which qualified legal advice should be sought before acting.

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Homeowner's Association Dues Increase

December 28, 2011 19:06 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I just learned that the rates for my homeowner’s association dues are going up again. The board members say it’s because other home owners are not paying their dues.  It doesn’t seem fair that I should be held responsible for other people’s failure to meet their financial obligations.  Do I have any recourse in this situation?

Consumer Ed says: 

First, you should refer to the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CCR”) or similar documents that generally outline the specific rules of your Homeowners’ Association (“HOA”).  This should have been provided to you when you purchased the property, or you can request it from your HOA board.  These documents will tell you more specifically about the HOA dues, including how much it can be increased, how often, and in what circumstances. Typically, an HOA board has to take some sort of vote in order to raise its members’ dues.  If your HOA rules don’t permit the board to raise dues in emergencies or at their discretion, you might want to contact your HOA to ask about the vote that took place to allow the increase.  If the dues increase was proper under the rules, you’re most likely going to have to pay it.  Even if you feel the increase was improper, you should be cautious about protesting before you know all the facts.  In some circumstances, if you refuse to pay, the association can place a lien on your home, and even foreclose on it.  You should consider inquiring, in writing, as to why the board has not done this with the neighbors who are not currently paying, rather than increasing everyone’s dues.  In any event, you are entitled to a full explanation for the increase, and you should get it in writing.

For more information about your options, you should consult an attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights and may also be able to help you look at ways to protect yourself in the event of future dues increases (e.g., through homeowner’s insurance policies).

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Do senior citizens have to pay property taxes on their home?

November 2, 2011 19:23 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was told that if you are a senior citizen you no longer have to pay property taxes on your house.  Is this true?

Consumer Ed says:

There are several homestead exemptions offered by the State of Georgia that apply specifically to senior citizens:

  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim an exemption from all state ad valorem taxes on their primary, legal residence and up to 10 acres of land surrounding the residence. Note: This does not apply to or affect county, municipal or school district taxes.
  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim a $4,000 exemption from all state and county ad valorem taxes if the income of that person and his/her spouse did not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act, which was $55,742 in 2011).
  • Individuals 62 years or older may claim an additional exemption  for educational purposes if the income of that person and his/her spouse does not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act).

Homestead exemptions are not automatic. The homeowner must apply for the exemption with the tax commissioner's office, or in some counties, the tax assessor's office. 
 
Some county and municipal governments provide additional senior citizen homestead exemptions. To learn if you qualify, contact your local tax assessor's office.

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