How to File a Michigan Mechanics Lien. This step-by-step guide is essential reading for anyone working in the Michigan construction industry.

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If you’re having trouble collecting payment for work or materials provided to a construction job in Michigan, then filing a construction lien can provide the help you need. A construction lien, more commonly called a mechanics lien, is a powerful tool to help construction businesses get paid for the work they’ve done.

This how-to guide provides a start-to-finish explanation on how to file a Michigan construction lien. Keep reading to get all the details right, get your claim filed, and get your money fast! But take care: There are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, any one of which could potentially invalidate the entire document, and leave you unprotected.

Do you have the right to file a lien in Michigan?

Michigan’s mechanics lien laws allow almost everybody on a project to file a lien to protect what they are owed (with a few exceptions), but certain steps must be taken in order to retain the ability to file a lien and to make sure the lien is valid.

Before you can file an enforceable mechanics lien, you need to ensure that you’ve met the state’s preliminary notice requirements. While parties who contract directly with the property owner are not required to send any specific notice prior to filing a lien in Michigan, all other project participants must send the property owner (or its designee) a preliminary notice of furnishing in order to retain lien rights.

Subcontractors and material suppliers must give the property owner or its designee a Notice of Furnishing within 20 days after first furnishing labor or materials to the project. This time period is extended to 30 days if the claimant is a laborer. 

While the failure to give the notice within the proper time period is not fatal to a lien claim in Michigan, it still has potential effects on a subsequent lien claim. Late notice will reduce the amount of the lien by any amount the owner paid the GC for that work prior to the receipt of the notice. And failure to give the notice at all is fatal to the ability to file a valid lien.

4 steps to file a Michigan mechanics lien

Once the preliminary notice requirement has been met, you can move forward with filing your lien. And that means preparing your mechanics lien form. This may seem like a simple task but beware: mechanic’s lien laws are very complex. Even if you have a proper mechanics lien form there are many traps for the inexperienced.

Step 1. Prepare your mechanics lien form

Fundamentally, a mechanic’s lien is just a piece of paper with certain words filed in a government office. As long as it contains the right information, and is in the proper format, there is nothing special about the paper itself. However,  it’s crucial that you get the right mechanics lien form, that it is formatted correctly, and that it does contain the right information – otherwise your lien claim could easily be invalid. One common mistake is to start with the wrong form!  There are lots of places to find mechanics lien forms, but many places have non-compliant forms that may be missing crucial information. Be careful to get your form from a reputable source.

Mechanics Lien Form Download

Get a free form

Download a free Michigan mechanics lien form, prepared by construction lawyers to meet the statutory requirements.

Step 2. Fill out the lien form

It is important to make sure that your Michigan mechanics lien contains all of the necessary information required by statute. Mechanics liens laws require strict compliance with specific rules, regulations, and deadlines. Failing to provide the required information on the lien claim (and providing it in the correct format) isn’t just a simple mistake – it can invalidate the entire lien. Clearly, it’s critically important to make sure the proper information is obtained and included on the lien document. The following information is specifically required for Michigan mechanics liens.

1. Your name & address

Michigan’s lien law requires you to identify yourself and provide your address. This is an easy one, but it is still important that you identify yourself correctly. In order to make sure the proper information is being provided, make sure that you use your company’s legal name (and if you do work or contract under a different name, provide that, as well). Since this information should be known to you, there is no excuse for not getting it right. It is possible for a lien to be challenged because the claimant misidentified itself, and the challenge can even be successful. Don’t be a company to whom this happens.

Michigan’s mechanics lien laws require a legal description of the property that will be charged with the lien. While many states allow for some lesser form of describing the property, like a municipal address or some other identification “sufficient for identification” Michigan is strict in requiring a legal description of real property.

Download a free Legal Property Description Cheat Sheet

However, lien claimants in Michigan have a secret weapon to get the legal property description of the project property. In Michigan, a Notice of Commencement is required to be filed with the register of deeds and posted on the job site. One of the pieces of information required to be included on the Notice of Commencement is the legal description of the project property. And, Michigan statutes specifically state that the “legal description of real property from notice of commencement” is sufficient for mechanics lien purposes.

3. Name of the property owner or lessee

A Michigan mechanics lien must also identify the property owner (or lessee) of the property whose interest in the property will be affected by the lien claim. This information is important for many reasons, including providing notice of the lien to be attached to his/her property, indexing purposes, and more. Getting the property owner identified on your lien,  and getting the owner right, is a key part of filing your lien.

Learn how to find the property owner on a construction project

There are situations that can make this difficult. The property may have been sold during the course of the project and you might not know which owner to identify. There may be multiple owners and you’re not sure which ones to list (answer: all of them). And, of course, you may not know who the owner is and need to research this.

Again, however, the Notice of Commencement provides the Michigan lien claimant with the information required. While there are many ways to find the owner of property (tax assessor maps, GIS searches, third-party databases) none of that should be necessary for Michigan because, like the legal property description, the identity of the owner or lessee of the property who is contracting for the work must be listed on the Notice of Commencement. And, the identity provided on the Notice of Commencement is sufficient for lien purposes.

4. Dates of furnishing

Michigan requires a lien claimant to state the first and last dates s/he provided labor or materials to the project. This requirement, when tied together with the mechanics lien deadline, provides a quick way for a property owner, recorder, or other interested parties to determine if the lien is facially invalid.

While the dates provided on the lien claim must be the actual first and last dates of furnishing, it is imperative that the last date of furnishing not be more than 90 days prior to the filing of the lien document.

5. Contract amount, or hourly rate

Contractors, subs, and suppliers must provide the total contract amount, including extras between the lien claimant and the party who hired them. Extras include change orders or other modifications/increases to the contract amount.

Laborers must provide their hourly rate, including fringe benefits and withholdings.

6. Lien amount

The amount of the lien is an obvious, but crucial, part of any lien claim document to set forth the amount claimed to be due and secured by the lien.

Contractors, subs, and suppliers must provide the dollar figure of payments already received — this figure should be subtracted from the contract amount (including extras) to determine the lien amount.

For a laborer, this is the amount “due and owing to or on behalf of the laborer.”

Note that just because you are owed money doesn’t mean you can include it in your lien. Though every circumstance may have some differences, the general answer to what amounts may be properly included is almost always the same.

You have the right to file a Michigan mechanics lien for the amount equal to the difference between the total contract amount and the amount already paid.  Other amounts – attorney fees, interest, or other amounts may be “due” but don’t put them in your lien amount. It may put your entire claim at risk.

7. Sign the lien and have it notarized

Finally, in order to complete your Michigan mechanics lien, you must sign your mechanics lien claim, and have it notarized. While the statute does not appear to specifically state that the lien must be notarized in any other section, the form provided (to which all liens must substantially comply) includes a section for notarization.

Michigan statutes specifically state that a lien claim may be signed by the claimant, the claimant’s attorney, or an agent of the claimant — so there’s no need to have an officer of the claimant company actually sign the document.

Statutory form language

The text for a construction lien in Michigan is actually included in the statute (570.1111). While the laws state that the lien must be in substantially the same form as the one provided in the law, it is best practice to make sure that a Michigan mechanics lien follows the guidance of the form provided by statutory law.

Mechanics Lien Form Download

Get a free form

Download a free Michigan mechanics lien form, prepared by construction lawyers to meet the statutory requirements.


CLAIM OF LIEN

Notice is hereby given that on the ……….. day of …………., 20……….,

(name)

(address)

first provided labor or material for an improvement to

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………., (legal description of real property from notice of commencement)

the (owner) (lessee) of which property is ………………………………………………………………….. .

(name of owner or lessee from notice of commencement)

The last day of providing the labor or material was the ………… day of …………….., 20 ………. .

TO BE COMPLETED BY A LIEN CLAIMANT WHO IS A CONTRACTOR, SUBCONTRACTOR, OR SUPPLIER:

The lien claimant’s contract amount, including extras, is $……………………. .The lien claimant has received payment thereon in the total amount of $………………………. , and therefor claims a construction lien upon the above-described real property in the amount of $ …………………….. .

TO BE COMPLETED BY A LIEN CLAIMANT WHO IS A LABORER:

The lien claimant’s hourly rate, including fringe benefits and withholdings, is $…………………………. .

There is due and owing to or on behalf of the laborer the sum of $ ………………………… for which the laborer claims a construction lien upon the above-described real property.

by

(lien claimant)

(signature of lien claimant, agent, or attorney)

(address of party signing claim of lien)

Date: …………………. .

[Notarization Section]

State of Michigan

County of ………..

Subscribed and sworn to before me this …………. day of ………………. , 20 ……. .

Signature of Notary Public

My commission expires:

Prepared by:

(name and address of party)


That’s it!  

Once you get through these steps, you’ll have a completed mechanics lien form ready to go. But you’re not done yet. Your next step is filing the lien in the proper recording office.

Step 3. Record your lien claim

Now that your lien document has been completed, it’s finally time to file your mechanics lien. While this may seem like the easy part, don’t take it too lightly.  A lot can go wrong with lien filings, such as:

  • You might get the filing fees wrong
  • You can file it in the wrong government/county office
  • You can not understand the county’s turnaround time and file late
  • You can get you lien rejected and miss your lien window
  • You can show up without the right paperwork and delay the process

Any one of these mistakes can delay your filing or even invalidate your whole claim. One of the most important things to consider when filing your Michigan mechanics lien is to make sure it is filed on time! 

Deadline to file

Michigan’s deadline to file a construction lien is 90 days from the last date the claimant furnished labor or materials to the project. This deadline is the same for every claimant, regardless of the type of project or their role.

Unlike some other states, Michigan does not allow this deadline to be extended. If someone is promising you payment, that’s great, but it won’t change your lien deadline.

Where to file

Generally speaking, you need to file your Michigan construction lien in the recording office for the county in which the property is located. In rare cases in which the property improved extends into more than one county, a lien must be recorded with the recorder’s office in each county where the real property to which the improvement was made is located.

This can be confusing, so we’ve compiled a list of all the Michigan county recording offices that file mechanic lien claims, and provide you with some information about how to file in the county here:

What to bring

Now that you know to go to the office of the register of deeds to get your Michigan mechanics lien recorded what should you bring with you?

  1. The completed lien claim;
  2. (for all parties who are not a direct contractor), proof of service of a notice of furnishing.

Filing options

In general, there are three options for recording a construction lien on your own:

  • Electronically (e-recording)
  • In person
  • By mail

As noted above, mechanics liens have a strict deadline by which they must be filed. Since this usually results in a fairly tight timeline, any delay can result in an untimely, and therefore invalid, lien claim. Remember, if your lien is sitting in the county’s mail bin, it is not considered filed.  

E-recording

Some counties in Michigan accept mechanics lien documents for electronic recording, but some do not. In nearly all cases in which a lien may be electronically recorded, it is generally the most efficient way to record a lien on your own.

E-recording provides step by step instructions, as well as neatly setting forth the recording fees, so there is no worry about calculating the fees and getting a lien rejected for miscalculation.

In person

Delivering your lien claim in person is a safe way to ensure it’s recorded correctly. The recorder can inform you if you are missing anything, and will tell you the exact amount to pay. While you can calculate your filing fees beforehand, you shouldn’t be too confident; something always comes up! Bring a black check (or several) to make sure you pay the correct amount.

By mail

However, if either the county doesn’t accept e-recording, or you have chosen not to use e-recording, the lien must be delivered to the proper register of deeds by other means. The lien claim may be delivered to the register of deeds by mail or FedEx or may be walked into the office, either by you or by a courier.

Also note that if you are sending your lien in by mail, you’ll need to get the filing fee exactly right, and provide a self-addressed stamped envelope with return instructions if you wish to receive a copy of the recorded lien for your records.

Generally, the filing fees can be determined by calling the county recorder, or asking in person if you bring the lien for filing in person. 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.

Once you have a stamped copy of the recorded lien in your possession, either by getting near-immediate confirmation from electronic recording, a copy handed back to you if you delivered it in person, or received a stamped copy back in the mail if you mailed the lien to the register of deeds, then you have an official recorded mechanics lien. 

You’ve just taken a major step towards getting paid on your job – BUT your work is not yet done. In order to be a valid and enforceable lien it also must be served on the property owner’s designee or, if there is no designee named in the Notice of Commencement, on the owner or lessee.

Step 4. Serve a copy of your lien 

Michigan requires that a mechanics lien is both filed and served in order to be valid.

Michigan law requires that any party claiming a lien shall “within 15 days after the date of the recording”serve a copy of the claim of lien (and all attachments) on the designee, or if there is no designee named, on the property owner.

Service is to be accomplished by either personal service or by certified mail, return receipt requested, at the address shown on the notice of commencement. If the service is made by certified mail, service is complete upon mailing. This is important because proof of making the service is required in any action to enforce the lien.

Congratulations! Once the lien document has been filed and served – your Michigan mechanics lien is ready to get you paid what you’ve earned. While liens are very powerful – they are still able to be disputed or challenged. filing the lien may not be the end of the road. Even if the lien is not challenged, you may be required to enforce your lien claim through a foreclosure action in order to get paid – which can be a time-intensive process.

After filing a construction lien in Michigan

After your lien is on the books, you may be wondering, what to do next?

A Michigan construction lien only stays effective for 1 year from the date the lien was filed. If this 1-year period passes without an action to enforce the lien being initiated, the lien will expire and become unenforceable. Michigan does not allow a mechanics lien to be extended so one of the following two actions must be undertaken prior to the expiration of the 1 year period after the lien is recorded.

Enforce your lien

If you have not been paid and the enforcement deadline is approaching, you’ll likely want to bring an action to enforce the lien. Doing so enables you to foreclose upon the property to recover the money you’re owed. This will keep the lien viable during the lawsuit, and at the end of the suit, if you win your case, the lien will turn permanent, and you’ll be allowed to foreclose on the property to sell it and pay off your debt.

Enforcing a lien requires filing a lawsuit. You can hire a construction attorney to do this for you

Release (or cancel) the lien

If you’ve been paid, or if the lien claim is invalid or insufficient for some other reason, you will probably be asked to file a lien release. The process of filing a lien release is similar to that of filing a lien. You must file the release in the same office in which you filed the lien.

Michigan mechanics lien resources

This is a guide on how to file a Michigan mechanics lien, but you may have some other questions about your mechanics lien rights, deadlines, and more. Here are some other helpful resources to get you paid on a Michigan construction job:

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How to File A Michigan Mechanics Lien – Step By Step Guide To Get You Paid
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How to File A Michigan Mechanics Lien – Step By Step Guide To Get You Paid
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This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire process to file a mechanics lien in the state of Michigan. Includes links to Michigan mechanics lien FAQs and more.
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