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

Mechanics liens are powerful tools that can help ensure construction participants get paid for the work they’ve done. If you’re unpaid for work or materials provided to a construction job in Michigan, then filing a mechanics lien can provide the help you need to get paid. Michigan allows 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.

Mechanics lien are very powerful tools, but there are rules and requirements that must be met in order for a lien to be effective.

To successfully record a valid and enforceable mechanic’s lien, you need to comply with notice requirements, prepare and format documents to strict specifications, meet certain deadlines, and get the lien recorded with the proper office. There are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, any one of which could potentially invalidate the entire document, and leave you unprotected.

This how-to guide provides a start-to-finish explanation on how to file a Michigan mechanics lien. Keeping reading to get all the details right, to get your claim filed, and to get your money fast!

The true first step in filing an enforceable Michigan mechanics lien is making sure that any preliminary notice requirement has been met. While parties who contract 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 preliminary notice in order to retain lien rights.

Sub-tier participants must give the property owner 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 paid by the owner 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.

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.

This section will help you get the mechanics lien form you need, get it filled out, and get it ready for filing

a. Getting The Mechanic’s Lien Form You Need

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.

b. Filling Out Your Michigan Mechanics 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.

2. Legal Description of the Property 

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.”

If you need help researching the legal property description on a property, check out this article: Researching The Legal Property Description for your Mechanics Lien.  You may also find help by downloading our 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. The Name of the Owner or Lessee of the Property

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.

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. The Dates Claimant First and Last Furnished Labor or Material to the Project

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.

If the Claimant is a Contractor, Subcontractor, or Supplier:
5. The Claimant’s Contract Amount, Including Extras

There are a few pieces of information that must be provided in order to set forth and justify the amount of the lien claim. The first of these pieces of information is the total contract amount, including extras between the lien claimant and the party who hired them.

It is important to determine and set forth the correct total. Since extras are supposed to be included be sure to note approved change orders or other modifications/increases to the contract amount. Unapproved changes, however, should likely not be included.

6. The Amount Paid to the Claimant Pursuant to the Contract

Since the lien claim shouldn’t exceed the total amount due to the lien claimant, it follows that the amount paid to the lien claimant must be subtracted from the total amount of the contract. In many states, the only requirement of the lien claim is to provide the amount of the claim itself. However, in other states, like Michigan (and Massachusetts, among others) more information is required to provide support for the amount of the claim.

It’s important to provide a correct accounting of the amounts paid. If this amount is understated, the lien claim may (at the very least) be reduced by the underused amount.

7. The Amount of the Lien

It 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. In the case of a Michigan lien, this amount is determined by subtracting the amount of previous payments from the total contract amount (plus extras).

It is important to make sure that the math is done correctly here. Misstating the lien claim amount can have significant consequences, from reduction of the lien claim amount to dissolution of the lien entirely.

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.

If the Claimant is a Laborer:
5. The Claimant’s Hourly Rate (Including Fringe Benefits and Withholdings)

Similar to the contract amount required to be included by contractors, subcontractors, or suppliers, wage laborers must set forth their hourly rate including fringe benefits and withholdings. This requirement serves the same purpose as the total contract amount for contracting parties. It provides the base-line for the calculation of the total lien amount. Also just like the contractual amount it is important to provide proper and correct information here, and not overstate the amounts for the purpose of inflating the lien claim.

6. The Amount of the Lien

Just like any other lien claimant, a laborer must provide the total amount of the lien claim. For a laborer in Michigan, this amount is the amount “due and owing to or on behalf of the laborer.”

It is important to make sure that only proper amounts are included on the lien statement. Misstating the lien claim amount can have significant consequences, from reduction of the lien claim amount to dissolution of the lien entirely.

For All Lien Claimants
7/8. Sign Your Michigan Lien & 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.

Form Note

Note that the form template for a Michigan mechanics lien is specifically set forth by statute. While the lien laws state that the “claim of lien shall be in substantially the following form,” [emphasis added] it is best practice to make sure that a Michigan mechanics lien follows the guidance of the form provided by statutory law. The form is as follows:

CLAIM OF LIEN

Notice is hereby given that on the ․․․․․․ day of ․․․․․․․․, 19․․․,

(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 ․․․․․․․․․․․․, 19․․․.

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.

․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․
(lien claimant)
by ․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․
(signature of lien claimant, agent, or attorney)
․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․
(address of party signing claim of lien)
Date: ․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․
State of Michigan)
)ss.
County of ․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․)

Subscribed and sworn to before me this ․․․․․․․․ day of ․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․, 19․․․.

․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․
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.


For more information on Michigan mechanics liens:


b. File Your Lien in the Appropriate Recording Office

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;

One of the most important things to consider when filing your Michigan mechanics lien is to make sure it is filed on time!  Michigan has strict deadlines for when liens must be filed, and those deadlines may not be extended. If someone is promising you payment, that’s great, but it won’t change your lien deadline.

The time you have to file a Michigan mechanics lien is the same no matter what the project type or the claimant’s particular role: 90 days from the last date on which the claimant furnished labor or materials to the project. 

1. Which Michigan County Office Records Mechanic Liens?

Generally speaking, you need to file your Michigan mechanics lien in the office of the register of deeds 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 register of deeds 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:

2. What You Need To Bring Or Deliver to the Michigan County Register of Deeds?

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.

3. Should You File In-Person, By Mail, or Electronically?

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 get the lien recorded and recorded the quickest. 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.

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.

Remember, the proper recording fees must be included with the lien. Liens are often rejected for improper fees (even if you provide too much money). Accordingly, it helps to bring multiple blank checks. While you can calculate your filing fees beforehand, you shouldn’t be too confident; something always comes up! 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.

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.  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.

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 ail if you mailed the lien to the register of deeds, then you have an official recorded mechanics lien.  Congratulations!  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.

c. 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.

d. What You Need To Know & Do After You File Your Michigan Mechanics Lien

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

A Michigan mechanics 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.

a. Foreclose on the Lien / 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

b. 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:

Summary
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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