Conflicting Property Identification in Georgia Materialmen’s Lien

We love writing this blog!  Particularly when two entries in a row provide good news to some of our clients (and prospective clients!)

Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled on the matter 3400 Partners, LLC v. Chavez (No. A11A0554).  In this lawsuit, a painting and concrete subcontractor had filed a materialmen’s lien against a condominium and retail complex which he, subsequently, attempted to foreclose upon.  Unfortunately, the subcontractor filed his lien with a conflict as to which property against which he intended to place the lien.  The face of the lien claimed to lien “all buildings and improvements” of the entire condominium complex, but the legal description of the property to be lien only identified one unit of the complex.  Thus, when the subcontractor brought the foreclosure proceeding the owner of the complex argued that the lien only covered one individual unit.  After hearing both sides, the court looked at all the evidence and held in favor of the subcontractor!

Although it is very good news that the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a materialmen and mechanics lien which may have been ambiguous, there are at least two lessons which every supplier and subcontractor in Georgia should take away with them.

First, make sure that the real estate against which you want to lien is properly identified.  Although the conflicting property identification in 3400 Partners was ultimately resolved in favor of the subcontractor, it probably took a lot of the subcontractor’s time and money to pursue their Georgia materialmen lien rights.  If steps had been taken to file a lien with consistent real estate description, then the supplier would have prevailed sooner (i.e., no appeal!) and at a much lower cost.  Contact a Georgia Construction Lawyer to help you correctly identify the real estate.

Second, although the court ruled in favor of the Georgia supplier/subcontractor when the real estate was, arguably, incorrectly or incompletely identified, the court might not always decide the matter in favor of the supplier or subcontractor.  The court, in this case, looked at all of the facts some of which included the language of the lien, the language of the legal description, the plat referenced in the lien, correspondence between the parties, the value of the work performed vs. the value of the individual condominium unit.  Thus, the court’s ruling was fact specific–different facts or unprovable facts may have resulted in a different opinion.  As a result, we are reminded that there are few clear answers, and your need to consult a Georgia lawyer to help you decipher your specific fact pattern.

If you know about any materialmen’s liens which have been contested based upon a confusing, incomplete, or conflicting identification of the real estate, let us hear from you!

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