Georgia mechanics lien law can be tricky, as is the case in every state. One tiny error in the way you preserve or enforce your mechanics lien can invalidate your entire claim, and accordingly, you’ll want to be very careful in this process. This article is a step-by-step guide to filing a Georgia mechanics lien.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Do you have the right to file a Georgia mechanics lien?
The first step you’ll take in any state is to figure out whether you even have a mechanics lien rights. Not everyone does. These rights are reserved for certain parties who furnish certain services or materials to a certain type of construction improvement project. The statutes provide that the following parties have the right to file a Georgia mechanics lien:
Mechanics of all sorts who have taken no personal security for work done or materials furnished, contractors, subcontractors, materialmen to contractor or subcontractors, laborers, registered architects, registered surveyors, registered professional engineers, contractors/subcontractors/materialmen furnishing material to subcontractors, machinists/manufacturers of machinery, equipment renters.
Whew! That’s a fairly substantial list. As you can see, while the lien laws do restrict who can and cannot file, there are a lot of parties who qualify for mechanics lien rights in Georgia. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that if you furnish any type of labor or materials to a construction improvement, you’ll probably fall into one of the categories qualified to file a mechanics lien.
Step 2: Were you required to send a Georgia preliminary notice?
Georgia is one of those states that only requires preliminary notice if the property owner files a notice at the start of the construction project — the “notice of commencement.” Practically speaking, these notices are only infrequently filed by owners. Unfortunately, however, there is no easy way for subcontractors or material suppliers to know whether the notice has or has not been filed.
It’s a safe practice to always send a preliminary notice on a project in Georgia. If you didn’t send the notice you may still have mechanics lien rights. It will be important to determine whether the Notice of Commencement has or has not been filed, triggering your requirement.
Step 3: Prepare your mechanics lien form
Now it’s time for the big show — getting the Georgia mechanics lien claim form filled in and ready for filing. Be very careful with this step. Any mistakes can lead to the entire claim being invalidated.
A. Using the right lien form
It is very, very easy to do something wrong when creating your mechanics lien form. This includes using the wrong form, to begin with, as there is a lot of bad information on the Internet and a lot of bad free lien forms. Don’t worry, we have you covered.
Levelset’s forms are created by construction attorneys and payment experts; thousands of Georgia contractors and suppliers have successfully used these forms to get paid.
B. Filling out your lien form
While there isn’t any particular formatting requirements or anything that makes the layout of the form special, the Georgia mechanics lien must contain the following information.
1. Your information
This one is easy but still, proceed with caution. Getting your information or your company’s information wrong would be a pretty upsetting way to invalidate your mechanics lien claim. If you are filing on behalf of a company, be sure to use the full company name,
2. Hiring party information
Another easy section here, this is the information of the person who hired you. Just look to the contract documents to find this information. If you were hired by the property owner, then you’ll simply have to repeat the same information in the next section.
3. Property owner
If the property owner’s information is readily available, this won’t be an issue. But, rarely are things this simple. And to make matters worse, getting this wrong will invalidate the entire lien claim and you’ll have to start this process over again. There are a number of factors to consider, more than one owner, sale or transfer of the property, or work commissioned by the tenant.
4. Lien amount
This amount should be calculated carefully, this amount should only include the value of the labor or materials provided and unpaid. Georgia law also allows for the inclusion of interest accrued for late payment. Do not include any collection costs or attorney’s fees in this amount. Overstating the lien amount can lead to some serious penalties, in fact, there was one case a contractor had to pay nearly $500K for filing an improper lien.
5. Property description
One tricky part of any mechanics lien filing is describing the property and determining whether a legal property description is required. In Georgia’s statutes, it is not clear what type of property description is sufficient, only requiring it be described “with sufficient particularity to be identified.” It’s a safe practice to use the legal description. Finding the legal description of the property can be challenging. You can download our free Legal Property Description Cheat Sheet to get you started.
Here’s an interesting issue that was brought up in our Expert Center: If the property has two separate sides (parcels), but is operated as one place do I need to file two liens?
6. Description of services provided
This section doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list. There’s no need to write out an itemized list of all the labor or materials you provided to the project. A general statement describing the work or materials will suffice.
7. Required notice
The Georgia statutes require that a notice be included on every lien claim, in at Least 12 pt, bold font:
THIS CLAIM OF LIEN EXPIRES AND IS VOID 395 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF FILING OF THE CLAIM OF LIEN IF NO NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT OF LIEN ACTION IS FILED IN THAT TIME PERIOD
8. Signature and notarization
Now that the form has been filled out, its time to sign. But don’t go grabbing your pen quite yet. Georgia mechanics liens need to be notarized in order to be valid. Be sure that you wait until you are in front of a notary public before signing.
Step 4: Get Your Georgia Mechanics Lien Filed
Once your mechanics lien form is prepared, the next step is to get it recorded. A mechanics lien is useless unless it is actually recorded with the proper recording office.
A. How long do you have to file?
In the state of Georgia, the magic number for filing a mechanics lien is 90! For every claimant, the deadline to file a lien claim is 90 days from the last date you furnished labor or materials to the project. That’s it! Don’t miss this deadline. Whenever you close out on a project in Georgia, go ahead and mark 3 months on your calendar.
B. Where do you file your Georgia mechanics lien?
Georgia mechanics lien claims must be recorded with the clerk of superior court of the county where the real estate being liened is located. You’ll need to make sure that you have the margins set in accordance with the county’s specific rules, and also be aware of the county’s specific fee structure because liens are often rejected if there is a penny less or more than the required fee.
Luckily, Georgia has taken the guess-work out of figuring out how much filing fees are. As the legislature has set a uniform fee schedule for all county clerks. The first page is $4.50, and every additional page is $2.00.
In order to make this process a bit easier, here is a list of all county recorder’s offices in the state of Georgia, along recording requirements, and a link to their websites which can provide you with county-specific information here:
Step 5: Serve The Mechanics Lien On The Owner
Georgia’s mechanics lien law requires that the lien claimant serve a copy of the mechanics lien upon the property owner. Service on the property owner may be done by certified or registered mail, or by overnight delivery (like FedEx).
If you cannot find or serve the property owner after performing some due diligence, it is possible to serve the prime contractor as the owner’s agent. However, you’ll want to be sure that the owner couldn’t be located (and record the steps you took) before doing this.
This notice of the mechanics lien filing is very important, and it must be accomplished quickly. In fact, the law requires that the property owner be notified of the mechanics lien filing within just two days of the recording! That’s fast! Make sure you not only serve the property owner, but you also keep evidence of service.
Releasing the lien claim
Congratulations! If you’re considering this option, that means you got paid. There’s no specific legal requirement in Georgia that says you are required to remove the lien after the debt has been satisfied. But, you should probably go ahead and do it anyway. Not only is it just good business practice, but the owner will likely ask you at some point to remove it from the county records. To do so all you need to do is file a Georgia Mechanics Lien Release Form.
Enforcing your lien rights
Most mechanics lien claims get paid, and they get paid fast. Nevertheless, nothing in life is guaranteed, and there are circumstances where your claim may not get paid before it expires. That’s right, mechanics lien claims expire. The Georgia mechanics lien is effective for a period of 1 year. After 1 year after, the lien will expire unless you take action to enforce it by filing a foreclosure suit. One thing to keep an eye out for is a Notice of Contest. If the owner decides to file one of these, the deadline to enforce your lien claim is drastically reduced to a mere 60 days.
This is a full legal action, so you may want to consider a quick cost-benefit analysis before filing a foreclosure action. You should be sure that the foreclosure is worth it. Now before jumping into court, there is one more way to try and loosen the grip on your payments. You can always send a Notice of Intent to Foreclose. This is basically one last warning that if you don’t get paid, you are willing to take legal action to enforce your mechanics lien rights. A majority of the time, this will do the trick! Therefore, if this deadline is approaching, be sure to get prepared to file your suit. Just as importantly, track the deadline. If you miss your deadline, there are still other options available, this was discussed in a recent question: How to foreclose on a GA lien?
That’s all the essentials to know when filing a Georgia mechanics lien. Keep in mind, that even a valid claim can still be challenged if you miss one of these steps. Follow this guide closely, and you’ll be well on your way to getting paid what you’ve earned.