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If you have decided that the way to get paid on your Minnesota construction project is by filing a mechanics lien, this step-by-step guide will break down the entire process for you.

Before making the leap to filing the lien, though, it’s important to keep in mind that there may be Minnesota preliminary notice requirements and that there are always timing requirements with which you must comply before a valid Minnesota mechanics lien may be filed. It can be a complicated and time-consuming task to file a mechanics lien by yourselfbut if you want to move ahead and you’re ready to do so, just follow the steps below to start the mechanics lien process in the state of Minnesota.

Step 1. Prepare the Minnesota mechanics lien form

A. Using the correct mechanics lien form

Mechanics lienThe first step in preparing your Minnesota mechanics lien filed is using the right form. There isn’t anything particularly special about a mechanics lin form, but it needs to contain all the required information in order to be filed and recorded. There are a lot of resources out there that claim to provide mechanics lien forms, but there’s no guarantee that they are accurate or even valid. But we’ve got you covered.

Download a free Minnesota Mechanics Lien form

Levelset’s forms are created and reviewed by construction attorneys and payment experts; thousands of Minnesota contractors and suppliers have successfully used these forms to get paid.

B. Filling out your Minnesota mechanics lien form

It is very important to make sure that your Minnesota mechanics lien contains all of the information required by statute. Mechanics liens are created by statute, which means that strict compliance with specific statutory rules, requirements, and deadlines must be achieved.

Failing to provide the required information on the lien claim (and providing it in the correct format) is a specific requirement, and failure to do so isn’t just a simple mistake – it can render your entire lien invalid. This means it’s crucial to make sure all the proper information is obtained and included on the lien document.

1. Claimant information

This as an easy one, yet many still find a way to mess this section up. Provide your full name and address on the lien claim form. If you are filing on behalf of a company, be sure to not only use the full legally registered business name but the business designation as well (i.e., LLC, Inc., etc.) Lien are challenged on all sorts of grounds, don’t let an error in your own information be one of them.

2. Property owner

This may seem pretty straightforward, especially if you were hired by the owner. But there are several issues that can arise when trying to identify the property owner properly. There could be multiple owners if so, list them all. The work could be commissioned by a tenant instead of an owner, then list them both. And there are other times where finding the information can prove impossible. If that’s the case, here’s a helpful article to get you started: How to Find the Property Owner on a Construction Project.

3. Hiring party

Another easy one here, simply add your customer’s contact info here. All this information should be found in your contract documents. Provide your customer’s name, address, and phone number. If you were hired by the property owner, just repeat that information in this section.

4. Property description

The statute states that this section should contain a description of the premises to be charged, identifying the same with reasonable certainty. This doesn’t mean that a full, legal property description needs to be used, but adding as much information is your best bet. A simple street address won’t suffice. For a little guidance on this, you can check out our article on Researching the Legal Property Description.

5. Description of labor & materials provided

This doesn’t have to be a full, itemized list of all the labor or materials provided to the project. Rather, this should be a general statement of what you provided for the permanent improvement of the property. Just enough details for another person to understand the role you played in the construction, repair, of improvement of the project.

6. Lien amount

The Minnesota lien law states that the claim should be limited to the contract price of the work, or if no contract, then the reasonable value of the work or materials provided. The one additional amount that may be included in your lien claim is any interest accrued. But no attorney’s fees, collection costs, or any unauthorized extra costs cannot be included. Claiming too much can lead to an exaggerated mechanics lien claim.

7. First & last dates of furnishing

This is simply the first and last dates that you provided labor, materials, or other services to the construction project. Determining the last date of furnishing may be complicated by any punchlist or repairs to defective work. The less substantial the work provided at the end, the less likely that work will be considered the last date. See below under the deadline to file your lien claim for more information on this.

8. Signed & notarized

Lastly, its time to sign the lien claim. Sign the document, verifying your oath that you have knowledge of the facts stated and that any required preliminary notices had been sent out. However, be sure to sign the lien in the presence of a notary and have the lien notarized. Any lien claim that isn’t notarized will be rejected by the county recorder’s office.

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Step 2. Filing your Minnesota mechanics lien claim

Now that you’ve properly filled out your mechanics lien form, it’s time to file your claim. This may seem like the easy part, but a lot can go wrong when filing your lien:

  • Incorrect filing fees
  • Filing in the wrong county or office
  • Missing your deadline
  • Incorrect information or paperwork

A. When to file your Minnesota mechanics lienDon't be late!

The deadline to file a mechanics lien in Minnesota is 120 days from the date that you last provided labor or materials to the project. Missing this deadline is fatal to your lien claim.

Calculating the last day of furnishing can prove tricky at times, but the Minnesota courts have dealt with the issue of whether repair work can extend the lien period. As long as the work isn’t “nominal or insignificant” and the work wasn’t performed for the “sole purpose of extending the deadline,” it can extend the lien filing period.

B. Where to file your Minnesota mechanics lien claim

The location where a Minnesota mechanics lien is recorded is dependent on the property and against which it is claimed, and in some cases, the nature of the project. A Minnesota lien must generally be filed for record with the county recorder but, if the lien is claimed against registered land, it must be recorded with the registrar of titles of the county in which the improved premises are situated. Lastly, if the lien arises under a project for railroad or telegraph lines, or similar projects, the lien statement must be recorded with the secretary of state.

If you are unsure whether the property is registered or not, your best bet is to file in the county recorder’s office. Be sure to contact your county recorder’s office ahead of time, as each county has its own filing fees, formatting, cover sheets, and any other requirements. Here are 4 essential questions to ask your county recorder’s office to get you started. To make this process a little easier, we’ve put together a list of every Minnesota county recorder’s office, along with links to their websites, here:

C. Walk-in, mail, or e-recording your mechanics lien

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. Walking in the lien claim yourself is the best way to counter any problems, and ensure that the lien gets filed promptly.

Some counties in Minnesota accept mechanics lien documents for electronic recording, but some do not. If you will have the lien e-recorded, choose the e-recording service, select the proper county and document (mechanics lien), follow the prompts, and provide payment. 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 recorder’s office by other means.

Also, remember that proper recording fees must be included with the lien. Liens are often rejected for improper fees (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.

Step 3. Serve notice of your Minnesota mechanics lien claim

Minnesota requires that a mechanics lien is both filed and served in order to be valid. In fact, as noted in the “required information” section above, the lien requires you to acknowledge that a copy of the statement must be served personally or by certified mail within the same 120-day period.

Minnesota law requires that a copy of the statement is served personally or by certified mail on the owner or the owner’s authorized agent or the person who entered into the contract with the contractor within the same 120-day time period in which the lien may be filed. This 120-day runs from the last of the work, or furnishing the last item of skill, material, or machinery, by the claimant to the project.

Congratulations! Once the lien document has been filed and served – your Minnesota mechanics lien is ready to get you paid what you’ve earned.

What’s next?

A Minnesota mechanics lien stays effective for 1 year from the date the claimant last furnished labor or materials to the project. While liens are very powerful – they can be disputed or challenged. Filing the lien may not end the process, and 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.

Enforcement action

Lien Calendar DeadlineIf the deadline is steadily approaching, with no payment plan in sight, it may be time to file a foreclosure (enforcement) action on the lien claim. While a valid lien virtually guarantees payment if a foreclosure action is needed, that proceeding can be a time-intensive process. Depending on the amount in dispute, you may want to consider if foreclosure is worth it.

There is, however, one final step you can take before filing the lawsuit. You can always choose to send a Notice of Intent to Foreclose. Consider this a final warning shot that states, if the debt isn’t paid in x amount of days, you are both willing and able to file a lawsuit. This threat is usually enough to loosen the grip on your money, as no one wants to go to court!

Take a look at this question from our Ask an Expert Center that shows a mechanics lien from the other angle: We were served a lien and told we have 30 days to respond. What should I do?

Release of the lien claim

If the debt is eventually paid, then it may be time to remove the lien claim from the county records. Although there’s no specific legal requirement to do so, typically the payment is made in exchange for the release of the lien claim. This is a simple matter of filing a

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 to be sure you are treated fairly.

Additional Minnesota resources

Mechanics Lien Minnesota: How to File a MN Mechanics Lien
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Mechanics Lien Minnesota: How to File a MN Mechanics Lien
How to File a Minnesota Mechanics Lien. This step-by-step guide is essential reading for any company working in the Minnesota construction industry.
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