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Home buying nightmare: Couple could get stuck with previous owners bills

MENOMONEE FALLS (CBS 58) -- Buying a home went from a dream to a nightmare for a Waukesha County couple, after a contractor claimed the previous owner didn't pay him for his work.

While it’s a dispute between a contractor and the woman who used to own this home, the new homeowners are caught in the middle, wondering if they'll get stuck footing the bill.

“When I first walked in I was like, I love this house,” said Kayla Lyon’s, who bought the home with her fiancé.

Just weeks after moving in, Lyons found a note on the door of her Menomonee Falls Home.

“I flipped it over and was reading it and I'm like what in the world?” Lyons said.

A contractor is claiming the previous owner didn't pay him for work he did on the house.

“He said he was putting a lien on the house for $27,000,” Lyons said.

That could mean Lyons and her fiancé are on the hook for that money.

A lien gives someone a right to keep possession of a property until the debt is paid by the property owner.

“You cannot sell the property without it [the lien] being satisfied,” said Beth Jaworski, a realtor, who is not involved in this sale.

Jaworski says this is why prior to closing, you get title insurance. The title insurance company will make sure there aren’t any liens on the home-and ask the seller if they’ve had any work done by a contractor within the last six months.

“The reason they ask that is because in Wisconsin, a contractor has up to six months after they complete a job, to put a lien against the property,” Jaworski said.

If work has been done in the last six months, the seller has to provide a lien waiver, which is a document signed by the contractor saying they got paid and won’t file a lien.

“We asked the right questions,” said the title company who handled the sale. “Now somebody's not telling the truth.”

Lyon’s has title insurance, and the title company that handled the sale says the seller, Samina Ali, signed a legal document saying she paid all the contractors who did work on the property.

“The contractor is saying I did work on the property and I wasn’t paid,” the title company said. “The seller is saying you didn’t do work on the property.”

A building permit from September lists Rossey as the contractor and Ali as the owner. It says Rossey redid the entire first floor. He says filing a lien is his only option.

“I got the permit and I did all the work,” Rossey told CBS 58. “I'm having no choices here but to do what I have to do to protect myself. Unfortunately these folks are in the middle of it.”

When we got a hold of Ali, she told us Rossey didn’t do any work but she also claimed she paid him.

“He did not do anything, other people did,” Ali told CBS 58. “And I paid the other people already. And I pay him as well.”

The title company says Lyons and her fiancé did everything they were supposed to do.

“They did right, they got title insurance,” the company said. “They got us involved.”

But when we asked if the new homeowners could owe money, the title company says that’s up to the courts.

“Certainly a lien could be filed, but what happens with that lien?” the title company said. “Does that lien get approved by the courts? So it's a wait and see.”

Jaworski says title insurance should cover the new homeowners, but she’d advise anyone in this situation to talk to a lawyer. And while cases like this are rare, Jaworski says there are additional steps to take to protect yourself.

“At closing, as a buyer you always want to get copies of any receipts of work done, and lien waivers,” Jaworski. “And you want to make sure you get a title insurance policy with your sale.”

 And Jaworski says even if you don’t plan to sell your home, get any contractor who does work for you to sign a lien waiver because a receipt isn’t enough.

“The moral of this story, is when you pay them you want a lien waiver,” Jaworski said.

As for Lyons, she says she’s anxious, waiting for answers.

“What if we are held responsible for this?” Lyon’s said. “What are we gonna do?”

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