How do you spell mechanic’s lien? Is it “mechanics lien,” “mechanic’s lien,” “mechanics’ lien,” or “mechanical lien?” And is it even any of these variations, or is it a construction lien, builder lien, contractor lien, materialman lien, or claim of lien?
Well, unfortunately, the answer is not very simple.
Mechanics Lien Name: What Google and Wikipedia Thinks
Wikipedia’s entry on the instrument is labeled the “Mechanic’s Lien.” It references the various names used throughout the industry, saying:
it is called by various names, including, generically, construction lien. It is also called a materialman’s lien or supplier’s lien when referring to those supplying materials, a laborer’s lien when referring to those supplying labor, and a designer professional’s lien when referring to architects or designers who contribute to a work of improvement.
Whether I agree with the use of the apostrophe or not is an irrelevant discussion, but as you’ll see from the next section the terminology used differs significantly across the country.
Forgetting about the authority (i.e. Wikipedia) and the statutes formal terminology, what terms do real construction professionals use?
There’s no certain way to know, but Google’s search results may give us some hints. I searched each of the terms and here are the number of results found:
Claim of Lien – 26,600,000 results
Mechanical Lien – 5,820,000 results
Construction Lien – 5,710,000 results
Contractor Lien – 4,820,000 results
Mechanics Lien – 444,000 results
Mechanics’ Lien – 444,000 results
Builders Lien – 395,000 results
Materialman Lien – 84,500 results
Mechanic’s Lien – 83,100 results
As you can see, the spelling used by Wikipedia is the least popular spelling or term used, as it has the least number of search results. Does that mean its wrong? Which is right and which is wrong?
Mechanics Lien Name: What History and Statutes Think
A few years ago I wrote a well-researched piece I’m very proud of called “A Short History of The Mechanics Lien.” The final section of that article is titled “Why is it called a ‘mechanic” lien?'”
You ever wonder that? Aren’t mechanics those people that work on automobiles?
Check out the history of the term “mechanic” on dictionary.com, and this quote from that mechanics lien history article:
While it seems unnatural to us today, in the parlance of Jefferson’s time the term “mechanic” had nothing to do with machinery. Of course, very little machinery even existed then. Instead, the term mechanic had been nestled in the English language for centuries and referred to folks who perform work with their hands…specifically, builders and tradespeople.
In fact, the association of the term with machinery did not exist until the invention of the automobile. This is a source of a small amount of misunderstanding today, as “mechanic lien” can refer to a lien placed by a builder against a construction project, or a lien placed by a mechanic against an automobile or airplane.
So, one reason why the term “mechanics lien” permeates throughout the industry is because that is what the instrument has been historically called.
What do the statutes actually call these instruments? Each state is different, but here is a sampling:
- Nevada: “Mechanics’ lien” NRS § 108.246
- California: “Mechanics lien” Cal. Civ. Code § 8416
- Louisiana: “Statement of Claim or Privilege” La. R.S. 9:4822
- Ohio: “Mechanics’ lien” O.R.C. §1311.011
- Nevada: “Construction Lien” NRS § 52-131
- Washington: “Claim of Lien” § 60.04.091