No one in the construction industry ever wants to hire a lawyer. You only hire an attorney when it’s absolutely necessary! So… when is it “necessary” to hire a mechanic’s lien attorney?
Every State Has Something Unique About Their Lien Laws
The best time to hire a lien attorney is before you have any problems getting paid on a job. As soon as you plan to perform work in a new state, consult with a lien attorney that can explain to you how that state’s lien laws operate. Every state has something unique about their lien laws, so pick an attorney that knows that state’s specific laws.
Performing Construction in A New Market
Also, you should hire a lien attorney when you plan on performing construction in a new market, such as public works when you’ve only worked private construction or federal works when you only have experience with state projects. Private construction project lien laws can vary greatly from public projects, even within the same state. Learn what lien laws apply before you start work and make sure you understand how they operate to protect your right to be paid.
Save Money in The Long Run
You may not want to hire an attorney proactively because you believe it’s an added expense you cannot afford. The reality is that you will likely save money in the long run by spending the money upfront. Generally, lien attorneys charge by the hour. It will take less time for a lien attorney to teach you how to use the lien laws to protect yourself than it would for a lien attorney to get involved once you’re not getting paid. Also, filing a lien does not require a lawyer. If you learn beforehand how to file a lien correctly, you can prevent needing a lawyer later in the project.
Red Flags that Might Impact Payment
Another circumstance you should consult a lien attorney is when you begin hearing rumors of other vendors on the project not being paid timely or filing liens against the project. Ask around the project if any such rumors are true or review the local clerk records to see if liens are being filed. Watch for red flags that might impact payment and consult with a lien attorney to figure out how best to protect yourself.
Late Payments Are A Big Warning Sign
If you decide not to consult a lien attorney beforehand, you definitely should as soon as your payments are coming late. This is a big warning sign something is wrong and you need legal protection. All lien laws are deadline driven, so if you miss the deadline to file your lien, you have a much lower chance of receiving the money you earned and are owed. Also, lien laws can be extremely specific on what information you include in your lien. Even if you timely file your lien, it may be invalid because you left out information that the law requires. A lien attorney can help you avoid making these mistakes.
Client Still Refuses or Is Unable to Pay
The final instance you need to hire a lien attorney is when you’ve properly filed your lien but your client still refuses or is unable to pay you the money you’re owed. At this point, it is time to enforce the rights you protected by filing your liens. A lien attorney will need to file an action to prosecute the lien and assert an execution or foreclosure action against the property. Your lien attorney will be able to litigate your standing among any other liens or debts against the property and determine whether any bonds exist which can satisfy your debt. Your lien attorney may also force a sale of the property so the proceeds of the sale can pay the debt owed to you.
It is important that you know your lien rights. You’ve done the work, so you deserve the pay. Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your right to be paid.