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Mechanics lien rights are a funny thing. Introduced to the United States via Maryland by Thomas Jefferson in the 1800s, the laws have been adopted in every state and through the years have taken on a life of their own. With nearly 200 years of legal jurisprudence and legislative updates, the laws have become extraordinarily complex and “public policy considerations” have greatly persuaded how the laws are interpreted.
We’ve talked about these “public policy considerations” in previous blog posts, and that’s because determination of a lien dispute can oftentimes turn upon whether the courts afford lien filings strict or liberal statutory construction. Strict construction makes it very difficult for lien claims to meet the statutory standards and survive a challenge. Liberal construction, on the other hand, makes it very easy to sustain a lien challenge.
Whether a state strictly or liberally construes a mechanics lien claim may depend on how fundamental the laws are to the state. In some states, the mechanics lien laws are so fundamental that they are incorporated into the state’s actual constitution.
Without conducting more extensive research, I know that the right to file a mechanics lien is constitutionally protected in at least three states: California, North Carolina and Texas. Accordingly, these states have made clear that the mechanics lien remedy is very important to its infrastructure. The right to file a mechanics lien is giving the same constitutional protection as the right of freedom of expression. As you can probably imagine, this means courts are expected to throughly analyze a lien challenge or dispute to ensure that the constitutional lien rights withstand.
If you know of any other states that incorporate mechanics lien rights into their constitution, let me know by commenting below.