Lien rights exist in all 50 states to help contractors, suppliers, and other parties who work on construction projects get paid. There is always risk associated with performing work on credit, but lien rights provide security. In most states, the lien process involves four steps.
- Send Preliminary Notice
- Send Notice of Intent
- File a Mechanics Lien
- Enforce the Lien
In most cases, there are strict deadlines for performing each of these actions. Failing to send a required notice in time or missing the deadline to file a lien can invalidate a mechanics lien claim. To make it even more confusing, deadlines vary from one state to the next and depending on project role. Read on for more general information about deadlines for securing lien rights and download our free Lien & Notice Deadline Charts to pinpoint your deadline. Note that these charts provide a general overview, and to find more information about your states deadlines and requirements, visit our mechanics lien resources and select your state on the map.
Click on the buttons below to download charts that cover lien and notice deadlines for all 50 states. (Looking for deadlines for public projects? Check out our article Bond Claim Deadlines in All 50 States.)
What Do These Deadlines Mean?
Sending Preliminary Notice
Most states require that preliminary notice be sent in order to secure the right to file a lien. These notices inform the property owner and general contractor of the sender’s involvement on a project, which helps provide transparency on the job. To read more about the benefits of sending preliminary notice, check out our article Why You Should Send Preliminary Notice Even If It’s Not Required.
Preliminary notices are typically sent shortly after work on a project begins. These notices go by different names in different states, including Notice to Owner, Notice of Furnishing, pre-lien, and more.
Sending Notice of Intent
Sending notice of intent to lien (NTO) is only required in a handful of states, but it can be incredibly beneficial even when not required. This document serves as a final warning before a lien is filed, and since property owners often want to avoid dealing with a mechanics lien on their property, NTOs are often effective at getting the payment ball rolling.
Notices of intent are frequently sent shortly (usually a few weeks) before a lien is filed.
Filing a Mechanics Lien
Typically, mechanics liens are officially recorded with the county. A lien makes a claim on the title of the improved property, which serves as collateral until the claimant is paid.
The deadline for filing a lien varies between states, but in most cases, the timeframe is 3 months to a year after work on a project is completed.
Enforcing the Lien
If a lien claim doesn’t result in payment, the next step is to enforce the lien in court. For more information, check out our article What Happens After You File a Mechanics Lien?
The deadline for enforcing a lien varies, but in most cases, the timeline is 6 months to 2 years.
Free Payment Rights Advisor Tool from Levelset
One of the most important questions about lien rights concerns whether a potential claimant even has the right to file a lien in the first place. What happens if filing a mechanics lien isn’t an option? What are some other actions to take when you’re having a payment issue? We have a free tool that will help you with these questions. It’s called the Payment Rights Advisor. It only takes a couple of minutes — just answer 5 quick questions about your job, and the Payment Rights Advisor will give you all of your best options, including whether or not you qualify for mechanics lien rights.