Principal Residence Exception for Mechanic’s Liens of Sub-Contractors

Question: We signed a contract with a general contractor for $85,000 to enclose a small patio for a fourth bedroom in our Maryvale home. This $85,000 contract said that the plumbing work would cost us $24,000. The construction of the fourth bedroom was completed properly, and we paid $85,000 to our general contractor. We have now received paperwork from the plumber that he was never paid anything by our general contractor, and that the plumber has a mechanic’s lien on our home for his $24,000 plumbing bill. Do we owe the plumber $24,000 when we never even met the plumber?

Answer: Probably not. The law generally protects licensed subcontractors who do remodeling and other construction work on a residential or commercial property, but are not paid under their contract with the general contractor. These licensed subcontractors have the right to record a mechanic’s lien against the residential or commercial property to require payment by the property owner for this construction work. If not then paid, these licensed subcontractors can foreclose on the property.

There is an exception, however, for construction work done by a licensed subcontractor on a principal residence. This exception prohibits any mechanic’s lien by a licensed subcontractor on a home that is the homeowner’s principal residence, unless the subcontractor has a specific written contract with the owner of the home. See ARS § 33-1002. Therefore, the $24,000 mechanic’s lien by the plumber is probably an invalid lien, and you probably owe the plumber nothing.

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