The construction industry can be a payment nightmare, but fortunately there are powerful legal tools to help construction participants get what they have earned and deserve. These tools – mechanics liens – were originally developed by Thomas Jefferson, and continue to work to get construction companies get paid fairly today.
Mechanics lien can work in many different ways to get you paid, but the most important thing to remember is that they work. By giving the claimant an interest in the improved property itself, the mechanics lien empowers construction participants to recover the money they’ve rightfully earned.
If you have decided to file a mechanics lien in Connecticut, this step-by-step guide will tell you how. It’s important to keep in mind that there may be preliminary notice and timing requirements that must be met prior to filing a valid Connecticut mechanics lien. While can be complicated and time consuming to file a mechanics lien by yourself, once you’re ready to file, just follow the steps below to start the lien process.
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Make Sure Your Connecticut Mechanics Lien Has the Required Information
It is imperative that your Connecticut mechanics lien contains the information required by statute and conforms with the formal requirements regarding signature. The failure to comply with the legally defined requirements related to the contents and signing of the lien can be fatal to the lien claim.
Connecticut mechanics liens are required to be made under oath by the claimant him/herself, and this is a strictly interpreted provision of the law in Connecticut, so be careful. Other than a signature of the claimant under oath, a Connecticut mechanics lien must contain the following information:
- Description of the premises to be charged with the lien;
- Amount claimed as a lien thereon;
- Name or names of the person against whom the lien is being filed;
- Date of the commencement of the performance of services or furnishing of materials; and
- Statement that the amount claimed is justly due, as nearly as the same can be ascertained.
Special Note Regarding Signatures on Connecticut Mechanics Liens
Connecticut law requires that the lien be attested to under oath and must be notarized to be valid. The “under oath” requirement is important in Connecticut, as courts have repeatedly indicated that a simple notarial acknowledgment will not do. The lien claim must actually state that the statement is “under oath” and the notary must perform an oath “ceremony” when making the acknowledgement.
Additionally, the requirement that the lien be signed by the claimant is strictly construed in Connecticut. In fact, a Connecticut court has invalidated a mechanics lien because it was signed by a claimant’s attorney and not the claimant himself. The Connecticut mechanics lien, therefore, must be signed by the lien claimant and the lien claimant only. Finally, take care to properly identify yourself (as the lien claimant) – not getting the claimant’s name technically correct, like saying John Doe Construction rather than John Doe dba John Doe Construction, for example, can have significant consequences in Connecticut.
How To File a Connecticut Mechanics Lien
Now it’s time to file that Connecticut mechanics lien.
1. Prepare lien form, taking care to include the necessary information as set forth above, and have a notary administer an oath “ceremony” and acknowledge the signature of the specific lien claimant. This MUST be notarized and the lien must be signed “under oath” in order to be valid. Make a duplicate of the lien form.
2. Send the original notarized copy to the office of the Town Clerk for the town in which the project occurred. The lien may be delivered to the proper town clerk via mail or FedEx, or personally “walked in” to be recorded.
If you have decided to personally deliver the lien for recording, or if you mail/FedEx the lien to the appropriate town, the proper recording fees must be included with the lien. Liens are often rejected for improper fees (even if you provide too much money). Any delay in recording or requirement to resubmit the lien for recording can possibly result in a missed deadline.Recording fees can be determined by calling the town clerk, checking on the clerks office’s website, or asking in person if you physically bring the lien for filing. Generally, the fees are set at one amount for the first page with an additional, smaller, amount for each additional page.
3. Once the document is recorded, a “true and attested copy” of the recorded lien must be obtained for service on the property owner, and an additional copy can be obtained for your records.
Note that if you mailed your lien to the county for recording, or sent it via a courier, along with the proper fees for recording with the document, you will must include a self-addressed stamped envelope with return instructions to receive both a copy of the recorded lien for your records, and a copy for service on the property owner.
4. Connecticut law requires that a true and attested copy of the lien be served on the property owner no later than 30 days after the Certificate of Lien is filed with the town clerk. Service of a mechanics lien in Connecticut is a bit more involved than in many other states; see below for details.
How To Serve a Connecticut Mechanics Lien
As noted above, an Connecticut mechanics lien must be served on the property owner no later than 30 days after the Certificate of Lien is filed with the town clerk. Service of the lien, in this case, is defined as follows: “if the owner or original contractor resides in the same town” as the property, service may be “by any indifferent person, state marshal or other proper officer, by leaving with such owner or original contractor or at such owner’s or the original contractor’s usual place of abode.”
If the owner or original contractor does not reside in the same town as the property, the indifferent person, state marshal or other proper officer may effect service “by mailing a true and attested copy of the notice by registered or certified mail to the owner or original contractor at the place where such owner or the original contractor resides. If such copy is returned unclaimed, notice to such owner or original contractor shall be given by publication.”
Failure to properly serve the certificate of lien within the 30-day statutory deadline can invalidate the lien claim – and since it takes a while to contact a sheriff or process server and arrange for service, it pays to have your ducks in a row and promptly start the service process after recording the lien.
Congratulations! Once the lien document has been both filed and served on the owner – you have a Connecticut mechanics lien ready to get you paid what you’ve earned. While this is a powerful tool to get you paid, it is not a cure-all – it is still possible for the lien to be challenged, or even determined invalid. Remember that just because a lien is recorded doesn’t necessarily make it valid, and likewise, just because a property owner (or their attorney) may make a claim that it is improper and needs to be removed doesn’t make it invalid.
Finally, a Connecticut mechanics lien stays effective for 1 year from the date on which it was recorded – after that date the lien expires, and it cannot be extended.
Recording a mechanics lien can be a powerful tool in making sure you are paid what you earned. The Connecticut How-To Guide can empower you to take that step when and if it becomes necessary, and make sure you are treated fairly.