It is one of those dreaded business situations that plagues the construction industry, especially in times of economic downturn—what to do when a lower-tier entity files a lien against a property then disappears. It has happened to countless owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and even some particularly unlucky sub-tier subcontractors and suppliers. Here is how it arises: a project is moving along, then performance or payment issues arise, and a company that is over extended or unwilling to continue work stops performance, walks off the job, and files a lien against the property for whatever amounts were allegedly unpaid. Often, the allegedly unpaid sums were legitimately withheld due to a good faith dispute over payment/performance, and it is not unusual for the defaulting entity to not be entitled to any of the sums claimed in the lien. Regardless, the lien stays on the property, and pressure is applied from the “upstream” entities to the party who contracted with the defaulting entity to “deal” with the lien.
Oftentimes, a contract will require the parties to “deal” with a lien by obtaining a lien release bond (“release bond”). For those lucky enough to not have encountered this issue, a release bond is a nifty statutory device whereby a surety agrees to record a release bond for the full claimed amount of the lien, with the release bond substituting in for the liened property, effectively discharging the property from liability under the lien. In other words, the lien is released from the property and attaches to the release bond. If the lien claimant recovers on its lien, it is technically satisfied by the surety providing the release bond (or the party who agrees to indemnify and defend the release bond). In exchange for delivering the release bond, the surety demands yearly premiums be paid on the release bond amount