Payment problems are not unique to the construction industry, but they are something the construction industry knows all too well. With complex pay apps, pay-when-paid or pay-if-paid clauses, and too many disputes along the payment chain, it seems like the potential construction payment disputes are nearly endless.
Fortunately, though, there are legal tools that can help construction participants get paid fairly for the labor and material they furnish to their projects. These devices – mechanics liens – are powerful, and work to get construction companies get paid fairly.
Mechanics liens work in many different ways to get you paid, but the most important thing to remember is that they work. Mechanics liens give the claimant an interest in the improved property itself, which empowers construction participants to recover the money they’ve rightfully earned.
If you have decided to file a mechanics lien in Maryland, this guide will give you step-by-step, detailed instructions on how to go about it. 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 Maryland mechanics lien.
Additionally, while it can always be a complicated and time consuming task to file a mechanics lien by yourself, this is especially true in Maryland (if it’s even possible) – you’ll see why below. But, if you want to do it alone, you’re ready to file, and you want to (and can) represent yourself in court – you can follow the steps below to start the lien process.
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Make Sure Your Maryland Mechanics Lien Has the Required Information
It is important to make sure that your Maryland mechanics lien contains all the information required by Maryland mechanics lien law. Failing to provide the required information on the lien claim isn’t just an oversight with no consequences – it can invalidate the entire lien – and since a Maryland mechanics lien requires an associated court action, the formal requirements are exceptionally specific. It’s obvious, then, that great care should be take make sure the proper information is obtained, and is included on the lien document.
A petition to establish the mechanic’s lien in the state of Maryland shall set forth at least the following:
- The name and address of the claimant;
- The name and address of the owner;
- Description of work done or the materials furnished;
- The time when the work was done or the materials furnished;
- The name of the person for whom the work was done or to whom the materials were furnished;
- The amount or sum claimed to be due, less any credit recognized by the petitioner;
- A description of the land, including a statement whether part of the land is located in another county, and a description adequate to identify the building;
- If the petitioner is a subcontractor, facts showing that the notice required under §9-104 of this subtitle was properly mailed or served upon the owner, or, if so authorized, posted on the building.
Additional Requirement: Also to be included are an affidavit by the claimant, setting forth facts upon which the petitioner claims he is entitled to the lien in the amount specified, and either original or sworn, certified, or photostatic copies of material papers or parts thereof which constitute the basis of the lien claim, unless the absence thereof is explained in the affidavit.
If the lien is sought to be established against two or more buildings on separate lots or parcels of land owned by the same person, the lien will be postponed to other mechanics’ liens unless the petitioner designates the amount he claims is due him on each building.
Special Note Regarding Maryland Mechanics Liens and Court
To establish a Maryland lien, an action must be filed in a court of the county in which the property to be subjected to the lien is located. Because the “filing” of the mechanics lien is accomplished by initiating a court action, the general rules of civil procedure and of the court apply.
Accordingly, an individual lien claimant is likely able to represent him/herself, but Maryland, like other states, has prohibitions related to a non-lawyer representing another party in court. This means that it is unlikely that an LLC or corporation can “represent itself” through an employee or officer rather than through a hired attorney.
Additionally, a Maryland mechanics lien claimant is required to initiate his enforcement of the lien by filing a Petition to Enforce the lien within 1 year from the date on which the Petition to Establish the lien was filed. As a practical matter, the two petitions can be, and usually are, combined in a Petition to Establish and Enforce Mechanics Lien.
This is useful due to the possibility that the lien may not be established by the court within 1 year from the date of filing the original petition to establish the lien. If this was to happen, the lien claimant would lose the ability to enforce his lien claim even if the court issued a final order establishing the lien.
How To File a Maryland Mechanics Lien
Now it’s time to get your Maryland mechanics lien filed in court. As noted above, this is both likely impossible to do appropriately for a business lien claimant, and not a great idea for anybody else – without hiring an attorney.
- Prepare the lien form, taking care to include the necessary information as set forth above, and be sure to include both an affidavit of the claimant setting forth the facts upon which you believe you are entitled to the lien and copies of the supporting information;
- Sign the document.
- Bring the lien claim with the affidavit and the supporting documentation to the circuit court of the county in which the property is located.
– Be sure to follow the court rules for how the lien petition should be filed in court – those rules can likely be found online. It is generally safe to assume that the document may be walked into the court for recording. Note that you must also pay the appropriate filing fee.
– Note that your lien petition must also comply with any specific margin and form requirements that particular court may have – these can also be determined by calling the court.
- Note that the petition for the mechanics lien is an action in court.
How To Serve an Maryland Mechanics Lien
When a petition to establish a mechanic’s lien is filed, the court shall review the pleadings and documents on file and may require the petitioner to supplement or explain any of the matters therein set forth. If the court determines that the lien should attach, it shall pass an order that directs the owner to show cause within 15 days from the date of service on the owner of a copy of the order, together with copies of the pleadings and documents on file, why a lien upon the land or building and for the amount described in the petition should not attach.
Additionally, the order shall inform the owner that:
(i) He may appear at the time stated in the order and present evidence in his behalf or may file a counteraffidavit at or before that time; and
(ii) If he fails to appear and present evidence or file a counteraffidavit, the facts in the affidavit supporting the petitioner’s claim shall be deemed admitted and a lien may attach to the land or buildings described in the petition.
Finally, while, as a practical matter the petition to enforce the lien is generally filed along with the petition to establish the lien, a Maryland mechanics lien stays effective for 1 year from the date the petition to establish the lien was filed.
Filing a mechanics lien petition can be a powerful tool in making sure you are paid what you earned in Maryland, especially since a court action is required. However, that same court requirement makes Maryland one of the toughest states in which to file a mechanics lien.
This guide can give you the info to know whether it is something you should undertake by yourself, or not, and give you a leg up to getting paid fairly.