As previously discussed in this blog, anyone that has furnished labor, materials, or services for the improvement of real property and has not been paid for its work may file a mechanic’s lien against the subject property. The owner of said property may then make application to the court to obtain a discharge of said mechanic’s lien. If the property owner prevails, the contractor that filed the mechanic’s lien has a statutory right to file an appeal.
As the Connecticut Supreme Court explained in Lichtman v. Beni, “an order entered pursuant to § 49–35b is a final judgment for the purposes of appeal.” Lichtman v. Beni, 280 Conn. 25, 32 (2006). Conn. Gen. Stat. §49–35c “requires that an appeal be taken within seven days of the court’s judgment, but provides an automatic stay during that period.” Id. However, a contractor seeking to appeal an order discharging its mechanic’s lien must also use to seven stay period to obtain an order preventing the owner from recording the court order discharging its mechanic’s lien.
If the contractor does not file an additional motion requesting that the court stay the order discharging the mechanic’s lien, after the automatic seven day stay, the clerk may issue the order discharging the lien and the owner may record said order on the land records. The failure to prevent such order from being issued and recorded renders the contractor’s appeal moot. Once the order discharge the mechanic’s lien on the land records, the mechanic’s lien no longer exists and cannot be reinstated by the court. Thus, there is no further relief the court can grant, and, therefore, it will not consider the contractor’s appeal.
The Connecticut Superior Court recently addressed this issue in McGuire v. Weiser. In that case, the Court was presented with a motion to stay its order discharging the plaintiff’s mechanic’s lien. In its original decision and in its decision on the motion to stay, the court set forth the reasons that it did not believe that the plaintiff would not prevail on appeal. Nonetheless, the court granted the motion to stay. The court stated that it was “faced with the clear language in the case of Lichtman v. Beni, … [which] indicates that the appeal was moot on an appeal from a mechanic’s lien because the defendant did not secure and record a stay of the court’s order discharging the lien, and because the plaintiffs duly recorded the order of release in their municipalities Land Records.” McGuire v. Weiser, FSTCV116011526S, 2013 WL 5395836 (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 6, 2013). The court noted that “essentially what [the Supreme Court] said was that if I deny the stay, then the defendant may file the order discharging the lien, and on appeal the case is moot.” Id.
Mechanic’s liens are created by statute but statutes often require a court’s interpretation to be fully understood. It is true that the mechanic’s lien statutes do not require a motion to stay be filed before appealing an order discharging a mechanic’s lien but the courts also understand the importance of preventing confusion in the land records. Allowing a mechanic’s lien to remain in effect after an order discharging said lien has been recorded (or even reinstating such a lien) would create ambiguity and interfere with the transfer of title of real property. Such a result would be against public policy and can easily be avoided. As the court has done, all that is necessary to avoid confusion is to require a party appealing an order discharging a mechanic’s lien to also request that the court say its discharge order pending the appeal. Of course, the legislature could also amend the legislation stating that no such discharge order shall issue while an appeal is pending but, until that is done, a motion to stay much be filed.
If you have any questions regarding mechanic’s liens, please give me a call.