Receiving a mechanics lien can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be confusing. Liens generally supply the recipients with as much information as possible to understand who and why the property is being liened. If you received a lien and can’t seem to make heads or tails of it, don’t panic! Understanding the basics of mechanics lien formatting will help you recognize the details you need to handle this matter as smoothly as possible.

Use the Information in the Lien

Generally, most liens will have all of the following present somewhere on the document:

  • The name and address of claimant, also sometimes listed as the “Grantee”
  • The name and address of property owner(s), also sometimes listed as the “Grantor(s)”
  • The name and address of general contractor or hiring party (if the claimant was not hired by the property owner)
  • A description of the service or labor performed or supplied
  • The physical address and/or legal or other description of the property being liened
  • The amount claimed to be due
  • The county in which the property is located (where the lien is recorded)

Other information that may be provided on the lien, but not always, includes:

  • Dates labor or services performed or supplied. Many states will include this information on the lien, as it can often affect the deadline by which the lien must be filed. New York, for example, generally requires a lien on commercial projects to be filed within eight months of the last date labor or services were performed or supplied.
  • Details and dates of previously sent notices. This information can include the types of notices, the method(s) of delivering notices, and the dates the notices were sent. Texas liens generally include this information, as there may be required notices for a lien to be considered valid.
  • Details instructing how the lien may be contested, or when it will expire. Each state regulates what needs to be present on the lien. Some states, like Georgia, may require the details of how to contest a lien, or may give information as to when the lien will expire if no further action is taken.
  • An affidavit stating the mailing methods (and often USPS tracking numbers) for every party that was sent a copy of the lien. California, New York, and Georgia each have different regulations on how the mail should be sent and how the affidavit should appear, but each of these states requires a detailed list of how the pre-recorded lien was sent and to whom.

Keep in mind not every lien you receive will use the same format. Even if you are familiar with mechanics liens in one state, a mechanics lien from a different state may look unfamiliar to you. This is because the way liens must be formatted, and the information they must contain can vary from state to state, sometimes drastically. Most of the above described information will be present in most situations, but it may be in a different format.

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Other things to keep in mind include:

  1. Sometimes exhibits are present – but not always. Exhibits can include invoices, contracts, statements, work orders, and even emails. Some states that may require exhibits include Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. Exhibits generally get attached at the end of the lien.
  2. The copy of the lien you received may not be the filed version. Some states require copies of a lien to be served at the same time as it is sent to the county to be recorded. Some states require service after the lien has been successfully recorded. You can generally tell if the copy you have received is a recorded version by looking to see if there are county stamps, recording dates, instrument numbers, or book and page numbers present on the document – usually at the top of the first page or the bottom of the last page.
  3. The lien may be going out to contacts not listed on the document. For many states, liens may only be specifically required to be served on the property owner, or property owner and GC. It may be wise, however, for the lien to go to anyone up the chain from the claimant, which can include contacts besides just the property owner, hiring party, or general contractor. This can include subcontractors, lenders, surety or bonding companies, tenants, owner designees, or anyone else who the claimant would like to notify.

Understanding the lien you received is crucial to ensure you can contact the correct parties and have the necessary information.

What to Do After Receiving a Lien

If you received a lien, you may also want to check if that lien is valid. We also have resources on how to remove a frivolous mechanics lien and how to challenge an improperly filed lien.