Contractors – Construction Liens – Wisconsin
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of Wisconsin construction or mechanic’s lien laws, but does include basic provisions.
What is a construction or mechanic’s lien?
Every State permits a person who supplies labor or materials for a construction project to claim a lien against the improved property. While some states differ in their definition of improvements and some states limit lien claims to buildings or structures, most permit the filing of a document with the local court that puts parties interested in the property on notice that the party asserting the lien has a claim. States differ widely in the method and time within which a party may act on their lien. Also varying widely are the requirements of written notices between property owners, contractors, subcontractors and laborers, and in some cases lending institutions. As a general rule, these statutes serve to prevent unpleasant surprises by compelling parties who wish to assert their legal rights to put all parties who might be interested in the property on notice of a claim or the possibility of a claim. This by no means constitutes a complete discussion of construction lien law and should not be interpreted as such. Parties seeking to know more about construction laws in their State should always consult their State statutes directly.
Who can claim a lien in this State?
Every person who performs any work or procures its performance or furnishes any labor or materials or plans or specifications for the improvement of land, and who complies with s. 779.02, shall have a lien therefor on all interests in the land belonging to its owners.
How long does a party have to claim a lien?
No lien shall exist and no action to enforce a lien shall be maintained unless within 6 months from the date the lien claimant furnished the last labor or materials a claim for the lien is filed in the office of the clerk of circuit court of the county in which the lands affected by the lien lie, and unless within 2 years from the date of filing a claim for lien an action is brought and summons and complaint filed.
Does this State require or provide for a notice from subcontractors and laborers to property owners?
Yes. No lien claim may be filed or action brought thereon unless, at least 30 days before timely filing of the lien claim, the lien claimant serves on the owner, personally or by registered mail with return receipt requested, a written notice of intent to file a lien claim. The notice is required to be given whether or not the claimant has been required to and has given a previous notice pursuant to s. 779.02. Such notice shall briefly describe the nature of the claim, its amount and the land and improvement to which it relates.
Every prime contractor who enters into a contract with the owner for a work of improvement on the owner’s land and who has contracted or will contract with any subcontractors or materialmen to provide labor or materials for the work of improvement shall include in any written contract with the owner the notice required by this paragraph, and shall provide the owner with a copy of the written contract. If no written contract for the work of improvement is entered into, the notice shall be prepared separately and served personally or by registered mail on the owner or authorized agent within 10 days after the first labor or materials are furnished for the improvement by or pursuant to the authority of the prime contractor. The notice warns of the lien rights of furishers of labor and materials.
Every person other than a prime contractor who furnishes labor or materials for an improvement shall have the lien and remedy under this subchapter only if within 60 days after furnishing the first labor or materials the person gives notice in writing, in 2 signed copies, to the owner either by personal service on the owner or authorized agent or by registered mail with return receipt requested to the owner or authorized agent at the last-known post-office address.
Does this State require a notice prior to starting work, or after work has been completed?
No. Wisconsin law does not provide for a notice of commencement or notice of completion as in some other States.
Does this State permit a person with an interest in property to deny responsibility for improvements?
No. Wisconsin law does not have a provision allowing a property owner to deny responsibility for improvements.
Is a notice attesting to the satisfaction of a lien provided for or required?
Every lien claimant, or the attorney who executed and filed a claim for lien on the claimant’s behalf, who has received satisfaction or tender of the claim with the costs of any action brought on the claim shall, at the request of any person interested in the premises affected and on payment of the costs of satisfying the same, execute and deliver the necessary satisfaction to the interested person. On filing the satisfaction with the clerk of circuit court, the clerk of circuit court shall enter satisfaction of the claim on the judgment and lien docket. Failure to execute and deliver the satisfaction or to satisfy the lien on the judgment and lien docket shall render the person so refusing liable to pay to the person requiring the satisfaction a sum equal to one-half of the sum claimed in the claim for lien.