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Marone Contractors, Inc. v. Colvin

2011 WL 2713436 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011)

CONSTRUCTION LIENS — The time deadlines within which construction liens must be filed are strictly enforced and if the owner of a property changes after a Notice of Unpaid Balance is filed, the claimant must timely serve its lien claim against the new owner within the time limits prescribed by law.

A contractor performed concrete work on two residential properties but was not paid for the work. Final notices of unpaid balances, naming the developer and the property owner for whom it did work, were sent. Those notices, however, were filed two days after one of the properties was sold and six days before the second property was sold, but in each case before the new deeds were recorded. New Jersey’s Construction Lien Law “is strictly construed with respect to establishing a lien involving a residential construction contract. ... As a condition precedent to the filing of a lien claim arising under a residential contract, the lien claimant must first file and serve a NUB [Notice of Unpaid Balance] on the owner of the property, and the contractor, against whom the claim is asserted. ... In addition, ‘simultaneously with the service [of a NUB], the lien claimant [must] also serve a demand for arbitration… .’” In this case, the concrete contractor satisfied the statute.

According to law, however, “after filing and serving a NUB and demand for arbitration, the claimant must then file a lien claim ‘not later than 90 days following the date the last work, services, material or equipment was provided for which payment is claimed.’” The time deadline is strictly enforced. In addition, “the lien claim must name the owner (or lessee) of the property, ... and it must be served on the owner and contractor. ... Where property is conveyed between the time of the contract and the time of filing of the lien claim, the proper parties to the lien claim are the person or persons holding title when the lien claim is filed.” In this case, although the contractor filed lien claims against the original owner and the original owner’s general contractor within the 90 day period (and got entangled in bankruptcy proceedings), it did not timely file the lien claims against the new owners. Consequently, when the concrete contractor sought to enforce the lien claims against the property, it efforts were dismissed by the Court because the contractor had failed to serve the lien claim against the new owners of the property within the time limits prescribed by the Law.

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