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Anti-liens bill heads to House

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A bill aimed at protecting homeowners from nefarious home contractors easily cleared the state Senate Wednesday and now heads to the House of Representatives for vote.

Senate Bill 145, introduced by Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, seeks to protect homeowners from unfair mechanics' liens. The bill passed by a 48-0 vote in the Senate.

The legislation would eliminate mechanics' lien rights for subcontractors who performed work on residential property, if the property owner already has paid the primary contractor in full.

Long a problem for homeowners, the problem was magnified recently after several out-of-state roofing companies set up shop to replace tornado-damaged homes throughout Ward's Senate district in Westmoreland County in 2011.

One company completed several jobs for residents and failed to pay its roofing supplier. In turn, the roofing supplier exercised its right to file mechanics' liens against the property owners even though the property owners had already paid the contract price in full.

The contractor they hired, Prime Roofing Systems of Waxahachie, was accused of failing to pay for $64,000 in building materials supplied by ABC Supply Co. Inc. of Wisconsin, which has an office in New Castle.

“Homeowners have faced this problem for years, but it became especially acute last year when several out-of-state roofing companies set up shop to replace homes damaged by a tornado in the 39th Senatorial District, and several property owners were victimized,” Ward said.

“Senate passage of this legislation means we're one step closer to preventing that from ever happening again,” she said.

Ward said even with proper documentation showing property owners paid the primary contractor, the subcontractor still filed the lien in accordance with existing Pennsylvania law. When the main contractor left town and disconnected their contact sources, they left the residents to fight the subcontractor on their own.

Under Ward's bill, if a subcontractor files a lien, the homeowner or tenant can file a petition or motion with the court to throw it out if the homeowner or tenant has paid the full contract price to the contractor. When a homeowner or tenant has only paid part of the contract to the contractor, the bill directs the court to reduce the amount of lien to the amount still owed on the contract.

“I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for supporting my efforts to make sure that property owners who pay their construction bills aren't penalized by the deeds of an unscrupulous contractor,” she said.

“Most contractors perform their work in good faith. Senate Bill 145 is designed to protect homeowners from those who don't,” she said.

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