filing a lien

Filing a Lien to get paid for your work

Let’s start the New Year right by giving thanks for mechanic lien laws being invented and giving us the power to ensure we in the construction industry get paid for the services and goods we provide. To commemorate the beginning of 2020, let’s go back to the beginning to the very first mechanics lien law ever enacted, the Mechanics Lien Act of 1791. While many requirements of filing a lien have changed since 1791, one thing has not: You must meet all the requirements to receive its protections. So let’s start the New Year by addressing the basic question of how to correctly file a mechanics lien.

What actually happens when filing a lien?

A mechanics lien is a document you file in the county clerk’s property record which creates a legal claim against the property where you provided your goods or services. This claim gives you the right to have a court sell the property to pay the money you are owed. Of course, there are lots of steps between filing a lien and selling the property, but those steps are often unnecessary because the lien filing alone is usually enough to get you paid. That’s why it’s so important to know how to how to correctly file a mechanics lien.

You know what it does, so how do you do it?

Each state has its own specific requirements to file a lien, which is why it’s best to seek help from a professional service. Generally, all states have the same basic requirements. First is giving notice to the owner and general contractor that you have the right to file a lien against the property and/or that intend to file a mechanics lien in the future. These notices are intended to motivate the owner to take steps to ensure you are paid before any mechanic liens are filed. If notice is not correctly drafted, not served on time, or not served on the right people, you will be barred from filing a mechanics lien.

Then next basic requirement is to have accurate information in your lien. Most states require at least your name and address; the name of the owner; the name of who you worked for; total value you contracted for and the outstanding amount owed to you; and a description of the construction property you are filing the lien against. In many states, if any of this information is incorrect, your mechanics lien will be void.

We can help you file a mechanics’ lien today, to protect your right to get paid for your work. 

The last basic requirement for filing a lien is meeting all deadlines. Every state has its own deadlines for serving the notices discussed and filing an accurate lien. Serving a notice late may result either in you losing the right to be paid some of the money you are owed or losing the right to paid anything at all. Deadlines for filing the liens are stricter. Generally, if you miss the deadline to file your lien, you lose all rights to be paid under the mechanics lien law. To make matters worse, calculating these deadlines can be confusing because some are based on when you started the work while others are based on when you completed your work or when the entire project is completed.

You’ve filed your mechanics lien, but you’re not done yet.

Your work is not over once you’ve sent the required notices, included all of the required information in the lien and timely filed it in the correct clerk’s property records. All of your work will be useless unless you bring the lien to court so the court can enforce your rights to be paid. Like the basic requirements for filing a lien, each state will have specific procedures for serving notice of the court action, providing accurate information to the court and meeting filing deadlines to enforce the lien. However, if you’ve properly followed all the state required steps to file your mechanics lien, you’ll likely get paid the money you’re owed without going to court.


NLB Gets You Paid and Back To Work

This article has been updated from an original version published Sep 19, 2016.

This content is for educational purposes only and is not to be perceived or used as legal guidance. 

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