It was a dark and stormy night. But you don’t really mind because you’re inside, on your computer. You’re about to submit your mechanics lien for some work you did on an owner occupied home in Maricopa County, Arizona. Everything with your notarized lien is perfect: your document is neat and legible, and you’re well within your 120 day deadline since completion. You’ve even set up a method to have the document electronically recorded with the county – so convenient! You’ve uploaded your documents and you’re about to hit send, when all of a sudden you realize you almost forgot to include your attachment.
You know you are statutorily responsible to include your written contract with your lien. You kept a copy of the four paged, neatly printed contract with the perfectly drafted sketches detailing exactly what work you did. You scan it and upload it as an attachment with your mechanics lien. You click send.
It’s night time, so you know you’ll have to wait until the county office opens in the morning to hear anything about your mechanics lien. You sleep on it, and the next day you check the status of the mechanics lien online.
You’re confused – it must be a mistake. There’s no reason why your mechanics lien claim should be rejected. You read their reason carefully:
Pages 4-7 Illegible for recording
You laugh. Illegible? Pages four through seven are your contract, which is completely legible. You hit the resubmit button, because surely this was rejected in error.
Hours later, you check on your mechanics lien once more.
Pages 4-7 Illegible for recording, lines through text
You’re not completely sure you understand what they mean. Lines through text? You take a look at your contract again and realize they might be talking about the sketches, where lines do run just under some text. But that’s the nature of any sketch depicting the improvement…
You call the recorder immediately, outraged they could deem your contract illegible. The recorder you speak to is polite, but can’t give legal advice, and informs you that your contract can’t be recorded because the images will need to be shrunk down for micrographic record, and the sketches will become illegible.
How can your mechanics lien be deemed illegible for recording if it’s perfectly clear to you?
It’s a practice that is hurting claimants. Shrinking documents for micrographic record might be a logical practice for the recorder, but it can also stop perfectly legible attachments from being recorded. Why should a clear and faithful written contract be rejected for the way the county records it?
Clerks may quote 11-480(A)(2) which states, “Each instrument shall be an original or a copy of the original and shall be sufficiently legible for the recorder to make certified copies from the photographic or micrographic record.”
“Legible” becomes a subjective term if the claimant is required to include attachments, such as the written contract. If the claimant is unfamiliar with the harsh recording requirements of some Arizona counties, they cannot prevent their written contract from having diagrams, maps, logos, and other images that might be deemed “illegible” for including lines or shapes over text.
There is also not much a claimant can do to “fight” the recorder’s decision if their document is deemed illegible. It is usually best to call the recorder’s office to explain the situation, and see if they have a workaround for this type of problem. Some clerks may suggest to white out the problems areas, or even recreate the written contract without the “illegible” content. This creates a problem of document integrity if the document is changed; it is no longer an accurate representation of the originally signed contract.
This isn’t just a horror story – it can happen. Arbitrary recording requirements can prevent your mechanics lien from being recorded, which is why it is important to understand the requirements preemptively.