Construction Liens

What is a construction lien?

A Wisconsin construction lien is a collection tool to “provide protection for …[contractors, subcontractors and suppliers] who improve the property of others by furnishing materials or labor…" City Lumber & Supply Co. v. Fisher, 256 Wis. 402, 41 N.W.2d 285 (1950). The lien procedure in Wisconsin provides a contractor with the ability to file a legal claim against the title of the property, and then foreclose on that lien to enforce payment of an outstanding balance for materials or labor which were provided to improve that specific property. The foreclosure process requires a contractor to file a law suit against the owner of the property, to force the owner to either pay the balance owed, or have the property sold at a sheriff's sale (auction), with the proceeds applied to the debt owed.

What Wisconsin statutes govern construction liens?

The Wisconsin construction lien statute is contained in Ch. 779, Wis. Stats. 

Who has the right to a construction lien in Wisconsin?

"Any person who performs, furnishes, or procures any work, labor, service, materials , plans, or specifications, used or consumed for the improvement of land, and who complies with [Wis. Stat. §] 779.02" has the right to a construction lien in Wisconsin. Wis. Stat. § 779.03 

What is an improvement for the purpose of filing a construction lien?

An "improvement" includes any building, structure, erection, fixture, demolition, alteration, excavation, filling, grading, tiling, planting, clearing, landscaping, repairing, or remodeling which is built, erected, made or done on or to land for its benefit. This enumeration is intended as an extension rather than a limitation of the normal meaning and scope of "improve" and "improvement". Wis. Stat. § 779.01(2)(a).

Who is the "owner" for the purpose of filing a construction lien?

An "Owner" is defined as the owner of any interest in land who, personally or through an agent, enters into a contract, express or implied, for the improvement of the land. Agency will be presumed, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, between employer and employee, between spouses, between joint tenants and among tenants in common, but there shall be a similar presumption against agency in all other cases. Wis. Stat. § 779.01(2)(c).

Construction Tips

Compare Apples to Apples in Construction Quotes

When getting quotes for a construction or remodeling project, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Ask all potential contractors to quote your remodeling project using the same construction materials as other contractors who are quoting. Not all building materials are the same - and some contractors use inferior products to slip in with the lowest bid.
--Get all remodeling contractors to create their quotes using specified construction materials

Ask for photos of past construction work

Ask potential contractors for images of completed construction or remodeling projects that you can see. Don't be afraid to ask to speak to past references. If it's possible, visit a complete remodeling or construction site where you can see the quality and craftsmanship first hand.
--View past construction jobs to verify the quality the contractor is offering - SR Remodeling Gallery