A mechanic’s lien is a legal document used by those that work in the construction industry to collect payment for unpaid labor, supplies, and/or equipment. Although the name might imply otherwise, it is not only for mechanics, but for any contractor that worked on residential or commercial property. To make the lien official, it will need to be signed, notarized, and recorded with the county clerk in the county where the property is located.
Lien Waiver – Acts as proof that the contractor has received (or will receive) payment, thus restricting their ability to file a lien.
Mechanic’s Lien release form – Used when the owner of a property has paid off a lien. Must be filed in the Registry of Deeds.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Also known as a “construction lien”, “property lien”, or “lien claim form” a mechanic’s lien is a legal document that helps contractors get paid for their work. Should they perform services or provide materials for a construction project that goes unpaid, they can use the document to place a lien on the property owner’s home/structure to encourage repayment. With the lien in place, a cloud is created on the property’s title. This makes it extremely difficult for the property owner to refinance, transfer, or sell the property without paying off the lien first.
Even if the contractor was in agreement with a general contractor (not the owner), the lien falls on the property’s owner once filed. This gives the subcontractor the ability to circumvent the “chain of command”, drawing attention to their unpaid balance from those at the top.
The form is for anyone that contributed to increasing the value of the property, whether they worked directly with the owner or not. This can include those that provide the following:
- Tools; and/or
To reiterate the point above, the contractor will need to prove their work contributed to the property being worth more. For example, if a worker’s job was to build temporary scaffolding around the property, it can be presumed that they didn’t make a permanent improvement to the property, even if their work was vital to the progress of the job.
The form should be used when the contractor has a good reason to believe they won’t receive payment for the work or product they provided. There is no waiting period; in other words, a worker does not need to wait any amount of time (after having gone unpaid) before they can begin the lien process.
Having said, states have their own laws regarding how long the worker has to file the lien, with the average being between thirty (30) and ninety (90) days.
The steps below outline the basic process for using a mechanic’s lien. For detailed information on the process in your state, select your state above.
Also known as a “Notice to Owner (NTO)”, the preliminary notice is a form that is sent to the owner of the property shortly after work on the property begins. It is used for informing the owner (and general contractor) of the specifics regarding the work that the contractor will be performing on the property. The preliminary notice is a standard form that should be sent for every construction project, not just when payment is late.
For many states, issuing a preliminary notice is required to secure the subcontractor’s right to file a lien on the property. Many states also require the notice to be sent within a specific amount of time. This can range anywhere from a few to sixty (60) or more days.
The basic information included in a preliminary notice is:
- The name, address, and phone number of:
- The worker (contractor) and/or their company;
- The person or company that hired the worker;
- The general contractor;
- The property owner; and
- The entity that provided funding for the project (if applicable).
- The duties the worker will be performing on the property
- An (estimated) amount of the cost of the worker’s services/materials
- The address of the property where work will be conducted.
Once complete, the notice should be sent via certified mail to the property owner. This ensures the contractor can prove they sent the notice within the confines of state requirements (if any).
The “Notice of Intent” is a warning sent to the owner, informing them that a lien will be placed on their property unless payment is received ASAP. Like the preliminary notice, the notice of intent should be sent via certified mail. There are ten (10) states that require the letter to be sent before filing a mechanics lien, which include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Regardless if it is a state requirement or not, it is highly recommended that this notice be sent, as it often leads to the collection of payment without the need to move forward with the lien process.
If the contractor is still awaiting payment after having sent the Notice of Intent, it’s time to file the mechanic’s lien. For detailed information on completing the notice, see the “How to Write” below.
Once all fields of the form have been written or typed, the contractor (known as the “Claimant” in the document) will need to sign their name in the presence of a Notary Public. Known as “Notarization”, this involves having an official 3rd party witness the contractor signing the form, thus verifying they were the person that signed.
The easiest (and recommended) way of having the document notarized is to go to the eSign homepage, click “Notarize”, and pay $25 to have a licensed notary public notarize the document. Alternatively, the contractor can bring the completed form to an in-person notary to have the form notarized by hand. In-person notaries can be found at post offices, libraries, and government offices, to name a few.
Notarized lien in hand, the contractor will need to go to the Registrar of Deeds in the county that the property is located. Here, they will need to pay a small fee to have the lien filed with the county records. Once recorded, the lien will visible in the records, thereby “clouding” the title. Because the act of selling or refinancing the property requires a clean title, the owner would be required to pay off the lien before they could attempt either.
Once the lien has been filed, the subcontractor/contractor should reach out (via phone/email) to the property owner, and anyone else that can aid in getting their invoice paid. Then, the parties will often negotiate until an amount is settled on. Each state has its own deadlines in which action must be taken before the lien expires. “Action” in this case refers to a lawsuit. It is very rare a lien escalates to the point of foreclosure, although it’s important to understand subcontractors have this option if they cannot reach an agreement with the property owner.
Once the contractor has received payment in full, it’s their obligation to release the mechanic’s lien on the property. This is done by completing and recording a release of lien form. It is important to have the lien released even if the lien is close to expiring, as the expired lien will still appear in a title search, and could cause uneasiness for the person or entity conducting the search.
The following are each state’s general laws regarding mechanics liens:
Contractors are required to send a Notice of Intent in ten (10) states, as listed below. If your state is not listed, you are not required to send the notice before filing a mechanic’s lien (although sending one is highly recommended).
|Arkansas||10 days||§ 18-44-114|
|Colorado||10 days||§ 38-22-109|
|Connecticut||90 days||§ 49-35|
|Illinois||90 days||§ 60/24|
|Maryland||120 days||§ 770 ILCS 9-104|
|Missouri||10 days||§ 429.100|
|North Dakota||10 days||§ 35-27-02|
|Pennsylvania||30 days||§ 1501|
|Wisconsin||30 days||§ 779.06(2)|
|Wyoming||20 days||§ 29-2-107(a)|
The table below displays the number of days contractors/subcontractors have to record a lien on a property. Note that many states require “preliminary notice” to be given to the owner at the start of construction – if this hasn’t been provided, the subcontractor may have waived their ability to file a lien.
|Alabama||Day laborers: 30 days
Subcontractors: 120 days
Contractors: 180 days
|Alaska||120 days (If a “Notice of Completion” is filed, the subcontractor has 15 days to file.)||§ 34-35-068|
|Arizona||120 days||§ 33-993|
|Arkansas||120 days||§ 18-44-117|
|California||90 days||§ 8460|
|Colorado||With materials provided: 120 days
Without materials: 60 days
|Connecticut||90 days||§ 49-34|
|Delaware||Direct contractors: 180 days
Subcontractors/suppliers: 120 days
|Florida||45 days||§ 713.06|
|Georgia||90 days||§ 44-14-361.1|
|Hawaii||45 days||§ 507-43(b)|
|Idaho||90 days||§ 45-507|
|Illinois||120 days||§ 770 ILCS 60/7|
|Indiana||Residential: 60 days
Non-residential: 90 days
|Iowa||90 days||§ 579.9|
|Kansas||Subcontractors: 90 days
Prime contractors: 120 days
|Kentucky||180 days||§ 376-010|
|Louisiana||60 days||§ 4822|
|Maine||Direct contractors: 120 days
All others: 90 days
|§ 3253 & § 3255|
|Maryland||180 days||§ 9-105|
|Massachusetts||After notice of substantial completion: 60 days
After notice of termination is filed: 90 days
After last labor/materials furnished: 90 days
|Michigan||90 days||§ 570.1111|
|Minnesota||120 days||§ 514.08|
|Mississippi||90 days||§ 85-7-405|
|Missouri||180 days||§ 429.080|
|Montana||90 days||§ 71-3-535|
|Nebraska||120 days||§ 52-137|
|Nevada||90 days||§ 108.226|
|New Hampshire||120 days||§ 447:9|
|New Jersey||Non-residential: 90 days
Residential: 120 days
|§ 2A:44A-20 & § 2A:44A-21|
|New Mexico||Original contractors: 120 days
Everyone else: 90 days
|New York||240 days||§ 10|
|North Carolina||120 days||§ 44A-12|
|North Dakota||90 days||§ 35-27-14|
|Ohio||Residential: 60 days
Everything else: 75 days
|Oklahoma||Prime contractors: 120 days
Subcontractors: 90 days
|§ 142 & § 143|
|Oregon||75 days||§ 87.035|
|Pennsylvania||180 days||§ 1502|
|Rhode Island||200 days||§ 34-28-4 & § 34-28-9|
|South Carolina||90 days||§ 29-5-90|
|South Dakota||120 days||§ 44-9-15|
|Tennessee||Prime contractors: 1 year (365 days)
Subcontractors: 90 days
|§ 66-11-106 & § 66-11-112|
|Texas||Residential: 15th day of the 3rd month after last materials/labor furnished
Non-residential: 15th day of the 4th month after last materials/labor furnished
|Utah||90 days||§ 38-1a-502|
|Vermont||180 days||§ 1921|
|Virginia||90 days||§ 43-4|
|Washington||90 days||§ 60.04.091|
|West Virginia||100 days||§ 38-2-7|
|Wisconsin||180 days||§ 779.06|
|Wyoming||120 days||§ 29-2-106|
Fields 1 – 2
1. Type (or write, if printed) the state that the property is located in. The “property” is the site where work was conducted that the claimant did not receive payment for.
2. Enter the name of the county the property is located in.
Fields 3 – 12
In this section, the claimant will need to enter several points of information. This includes:
3. The date (mm/dd/yyyy) they are filing the lien.
4. The full name of the claimant (the person completing the form).
5. The claimant’s full mailing address.
6. The claimant’s license number (if applicable).
7. The date the claimant’s license was issued.
8. The date the license will expire.
9. The amount ($) the claimant is claiming the construction lien for.
10. The full name of the person that owns the property in which construction took place.
11. The address of the property (with the county included as well).
12. The full legal description of the property. This can be found in current/previous deeds (and can often be found online).
Fields 13 – 16
13. The name of the person the claimant entered into a work contract with.
14. The date (mm/dd/yyyy) the contract was entered into.
15. The type(s) of services, labor, equipment, materials, and/or equipment the claimant provided to the work site.
16. The price ($) the claimant agreed to in regards to the item(s) listed in field 15.
Fields 17 – 18
17. Enter the date (mm/dd/yyyy) the claimant began work on the property.
18. The date (mm/dd/yyyy) the claimant finished their work on the property.
Fields 19 – 20
19. If the claimant received partial payment from the owner/general contractor, check the first box and enter the amount ($) they received so far. If no payment was received, check the second box.
20. Enter the total ($) amount the claimant is due. This is the amount ($) the lien will be for.
Fields 21 – 23 (Claimant Signature)
21. The claimant will need to sign their name here. Their signature can be written in ink (by printing the document) or it can be signed digitally with eSign (recommended option). If the claimant will be notarizing the form (most likely recommended), they will need to wait until they are in the presence of a Notary Public.
22. Enter the date (mm/dd/yyyy) the claimant signed the lien.
23. The full printed name of the claimant.
Fields 24 – 27 (Verification)
This area is rarely required by state law, but is included should the claimant want additional proof (in addition to Notarization) that their claims regarding payment are true. To complete this area, the following fields will need to be completed:
24. The full name of the verifier (the person verifying the worker’s claims);
25. How the verifier is related/associated with the claimant (ex: “Coworker”);
26. The signature of the verifier (signed by hand or with eSign); and
27. The date (mm/dd/yyyy) the verifier signed their name to the form.
Fields 28 – 33 (Notary Acknowledgment)
28 – 33. Fields 28 through 33 are to be completed by a Notary Public only. When (or if) the claimant has their signature notarized, the Notary will complete the fields listed here.
Fields 34 – 37 (Proof of Service)
The last page of the form, the “Proof of Service”, is a document completed by the Claimant guaranteeing that a copy of the lien was indeed sent to the property owner. This form is not given to the County Recorder when recording the document. The following will need to be completed on this page:
34. Name of the person that received the copy of the notice (should be the owner’s full name);
35. The address that the letter was delivered to;
36. The date of service (when the letter was sent); and
37. The signature of the claimant. This can be signed with eSign or by hand.