Perfecting a statutory mechanic’s and materialman’s lien under current Texas law is difficult. The statutes are less than clear and chocked full of traps and deadlines that trip up many contractors and material suppliers. Fortunately, lien perfection typically results in payment or pre-trial settlement once foreclosure is threatened. However, when payment is not forthcoming, a claimant must timely file a lawsuit to foreclose the lien.
On more than one occasion I’ve represented contractors who managed to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ necessary to perfect a lien claim only to have a trial court deny foreclosure because he “just didn’t feel right about it”, “foreclosure seems vindictive” or because in their experience, “its customary that the lien will get paid whenever the property is sold.” WHAT?!? My unstated response is: “You can’t do that!” or “Judge, you are rewriting the law based upon whims and feelings. My client has no way of getting paid without foreclosure.” Unfortunately, most of my clients were either unwilling or unable to appeal.
This week lien claimants won an important victory in Crawford Services, Inc., v. Skillman International Firm, L.L.C., when the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals published an opinion reversing and rendering judgment from Dallas County. Specifically, the appellate court held that a Dallas County District court abused its discretion by refusing to foreclose a perfected mechanic’s lien.