Unfortunately, the law allows the subcontractor to place a lien against the property if he was not paid by the general contractor.
If the GC is being unresponsive, this is a very bad sign. If the lien is not actually holding anything up on your end (i.e., if you are not trying to sale the property), then you can simply continue writing and calling the GC to make him pay.
However, if the lien is encumbering the property in a way that injures your interests (i.e., hurts your credit report
, keeps you from selling the property, etc), then the first thing to do is to make sure that the lien is valid.
If you as the homeowner didn't hire the contractor who liened your property directly, then that subcontractor or supplier must have first sent you a form called a Preliminary 20-day Notice letting you know their name and address, who hired them, and what work or materials they were furnishing. They must have either delivered it to you personally or had it delivered to you by CERTIFIED mail. Regular mail doesn't count. No preliminary 20-day notice means their lien is invalid, and you can demand that they release it.
If the Preliminary 20-day notice was sent too late, the lien is invalid. The Preliminary 20-day notice is supposed to be sent by the subcontractor or supplier within 20 days of first furnishing labor or materials on the project. The notice can be sent out late but it will then only cover labor or materials furnished 20 days immediately before the notice was sent, and the labor or materials furnished after that time. If the subcontractor's or supplier's labor or materials was fully furnished more than 20 days before the Notice was sent, then the lien is invalid and you can demand that they release it. Always ask the subcontractor or suppliers for copies of their invoices and time cards, and other information they have to prove their claim.
It's not enough for a contractor just to record the mechanic's lien. They must perfect the lien by filing a lawsuit in state court to foreclose the lien within 90 days (not 3 months but 90 days) of the recording date of the lien. If no lawsuit was timely filed, then the lien expires by operation of law and you can demand that they release it.
If the do file suit, then you have to bring in the GC (i.e., sue the GC) and request "indemnification", which means the GC is liable for any damages and for your legal fees.
If the lien is valid, but you want to avoid the suit, you can pay the sub and then make demands yourself to the GC. If the GC doesn't pay, then you have to sue the GC.
First things first, check to see that the sub followed the procedures above to perfect the lien. Then get the documentation from him to check to see if his claim is legitimate.
Please let me know if you need further information.