It’s no secret that the construction industry struggles with payment. Slow payment is the industry norm, non-existent payment is not uncommon, and the industry-wide payment problem bogs down cash-flow and creates problems for too many hard-working companies on too many projects.
The credit-heavy nature of construction payment, the sheer number of parties through whom payment must flow, and difficult practical aspects like complex pay apps, risk-shifting contractual clauses, workmanship disputes, and more all combine to frustrate speedy and proper payment. There are, however, specific legal tools for construction participants built into the laws of every state that can virtually guarantee payment on every project, and improve cash-flow. These tools are known as mechanics liens.
Mechanics liens were developed by Thomas Jefferson to ensure proper payment to construction participants. And the mechanics lien tool is powerful, and works in many ways to get construction companies get paid fairly. Mechanics liens give the claimant an interest in the actual improved property, which empowers construction participants to recover the money they’ve rightfully earned.
If you are unpaid on a construction project in Maine and have decided to pursue payment through filing a mechanics lien, this step-by-step guide (starting in the next section, below) will provide an outline on how to do it. However, before you go down that road, it’s important to consider the preliminary notice and timing requirements, that must be met prior to filing a valid Maine mechanics lien.
Filing a lien by yourself can be a complicated and time consuming task, but if you’re ready and willing to go it alone, just follow the steps below.
Make Sure Your Maine Mechanics Lien Has the Required Information
It is always crucial to make sure a mechanics lien is complete, and contains all of the required information. Maine’s mechanics liens laws require strict compliance with the technical and formal statutory requirements in order to be valid. This means that failing to include certain specific information on the lien claim is more than just a small problem – it can invalidate the entire lien.
A Maine mechanics liens must contain the following information:
- A true statement of the amount due the claimant, with all just credits given;
- A description of the property intended to be covered by the lien sufficiently accurate to identify it;
- The names of the owners, if known;
- Notarized/sworn signature of the person claiming the lien, or by someone in the claimant’s behalf.
NOTE: The lien is not specifically required to contain the identity of the party that hired the claimant, or a description of the labor or materials furnished to the project. HOWEVER, it is always a good idea to include that information. Both to make it clear how you are associated with the project and why you need to be paid, and so that the interested parties can put pressure in the right spots to make it happen.
Special Note Regarding Maine’s Lien Requirement by Role
While the above requirements, and the filing of the lien itself, are specifically necessary for most parties on a Maine construction project, they are not strictly necessary for any party that contracted directly with the owner. Lien claimants who did contract directly with the owner of the property are not required to file the lien with the register of deeds, and instead, can proceed to filing a claim in court directly.
If this course is chosen, the complaint must state that the plaintiff claims a lien on the property, and must include a property description, and a description of the labor or materials furnished. The complaint shall also request that the property be sold and the proceeds applied to the discharge of such lien.
While this is possible – it may not be the most efficient course of action. As long as close attention is paid to the applicable deadlines, it may be beneficial even for direct contractors to file a lien prior to initiating a lawsuit. This gives the owner a chance to pay prior to the claimant being forced to incur the expense of hiring an attorney to prosecute the claim.
Determine Your Role/Tier & Why It Matters to Your Rights | by Levelset CEO Scott Wolfe Jr.
How To File a Maine Mechanics Lien
Now it’s time to get your Maine mechanics lien filed in the office of the register of deeds in the county or registry district in which the property is located.
- Prepare lien form, taking care to include the necessary information as set forth above, and sign and swear to contents of the document in front of a notary – and have the notary notarize the lien claim. NOTE: “No inaccuracy in such statement relating to said property, if the same can be reasonably recognized, or in stating the amount due for labor, materials or services invalidates the proceedings, unless it appears that the person making it willfully claims more than his due.”
- Send the original copy to the office of the register of deeds in the county or registry district in which the property is located.
– Maine does not have e-recording of mechanics liens so the lien document must be provided to the register of deeds physically.
– The lien may be delivered to the proper register of deeds via mail or FedEx, or personally “walked in” to be recorded (either by you or a courier).
– Make sure to include the proper recording fees with the lien. Lien are often rejected for improper fees (and this can be true even if you provide too much money). Any delay caused by needing to resubmit the lien for recording takes time – and since liens are time sensitive documents, it can possibly result in a missed deadline. Recording fees vary from county to county and can be determined by calling the county register of deeds, checking on the county register’s website, or asking in person if you physically bring the lien for filing. The fees are often set at one amount for the first page with an additional, smaller, amount for each additional page.
– Note that your lien document must also comply with any specific margin requirements that particular county may have, as well as potentially requiring a county-specific cover page – these can also be determined by calling the recorders office.
- Note that if you mailed your lien to the county for recording, or sent it via a courier, you must also include a self-addressed stamped envelope with return instructions to receive a copy of the recorded lien for your records and/or to serve the lien on the interested parties.
- Serve a copy of the mechanics lien – see more below.
How To Serve a Maine Mechanics Lien
Once the lien has been recorded with the appropriate register of deeds, the lien claim still must be served on the property owner in order to be valid.
Maine law requires that the lien claimant send a copy of the lien statement to the property owner (or owners), by “regular mail.” If the claimant obtains a “post office certificate of mailing” that certificate is deemed to be “conclusive proof of receipt” of the notice by the owner.
Congratulations! Once the lien document has been filed and served – your Maine mechanics lien is ready to get you paid what you’ve earned. While liens are very powerful, filing the lien may not be the final step before you get paid. Liens may be challenged (even if valid), and if there was a slight problem in compliance with the notice or lien requirements or deadlines, it may even be determined invalid. It’s also possible that you may be forced to enforce your lien claim through a foreclosure action in order to ultimately get paid – which can be a long and expensive process.
Finally, a Maine mechanics lien stays effective for 120 days from the date labor or materials were last furnished to the project.
Recording a mechanics lien can be a powerful tool in making sure you are paid what you earned. The How-To guide above can empower you to take that step when and if it becomes necessary, and make sure you are treated fairly.