I’m frequently approached by landscaping companies to advise them on the extent of their mechanics lien rights. These companies usually have a mix of business. Sometimes, they’re doing full landscaping projects, re-landscaping a particular property. Other times, they are doing landscape maintenance in some form. I’ve even been approached in the past by lawn mowing services, who are interested in filing a lien against properties where they’ve mowed the lawn (without payment) for a period of weeks or months.
So, can a landscaper file a mechanics lien? The answer (of course) is sometimes.
To help discuss this issue, there is a Florida case from 1986 that discusses this exact circumstance. While this is a Florida case, the same principle applies pretty consistently across the nation, although there are exceptions in certain states where landscapers are given much greater and much less latitude as is given in Florida.
The case is Legault v. Suncoast Lawn Services, Inc., where the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida explained as follows:
Section 713.01(8), Florida Statutes, requires that an improvement, in order to support a mechanic’s lien, must result in a permanent benefit to the land or other real property…Although planting for landscaping purposes may be considered a permanent improvement, maintenance landscaping services do not bestow a permanent benefit upon the land, and do not entitle the laborer to a mechanic’s lien.
In other words, a landscaping company “planting for landscaping purposes” is considered to be making a permanent improvement. However, simple landscaping maintenance services (e.g. raking, lawn mowing) do not qualify.
Further Reading: What is an Artisan’s Lien?
As usual, the trouble is sorting out all the gray area between what is “planting for landscaping purposes” and maintenance.
This is very similar to scenarios we posted about in the past. Actually, you can find a very common theme in all of these scenarios: When you perform maintenance work or work that does not create a permanent attachment to the property, you don’t have lien rights. If you do create a permanent attachment, you do have lien rights. With certain exceptions, that’s the golden rule. Here are the other two similar scenarios: