Can you file a mechanics lien for furnishing labor or materials to an airport hangar? And if so, who exactly owns the property?

I was inspired to write this post by Spec-dor, a company that specializes in aircraft hangar doors. After looking at their website, I got to thinking about how they could use lien rights to secure their accounts receivables. While mechanics lien and bond claim laws are complicated for just about anyone, I think they are especially complicated for a company like Spec-Dor.

Why? Airport hangars present an entirely unique situation. When furnishing labor or materials to an airport hangar, the furnishing is certainly incorporated into the property. That is not the issue. The issue is just what type of lien rights exists since the airport hangar may not reside on private land. It is especially difficult to identify the project type when working on an airport.

Mechanics Lien Rights Exist When Aircraft Hangar Is on a Private Airport

When furnishing to an aircraft hangar that is on a private airport there is likely mechanics lien rights for this. The key is determining whether the airport is a true private airport.

I’m a private pilot and so I have a little bit of knowledge about this. Everyone is familiar with the main airports in large cities, but not everyone knows that there are thousands of airports across the country in small towns and cities. These are oftentimes referred to as “private airports” because they are very infrequently used, and when they are used, they are usually used by “private pilots,” like me.

Beware! These are not private airports. These airports are almost always owned by the city or the state and not by a private party. Private airports, which are owned by private individuals or companies, are airports that do not usually allow general aviation traffic. If you look at a flight map these airports have Xs through them, because general traffic is not allowed.

If the airport hangar in question is on this type of private airport, owned privately and not by the government, then you are working on private land and you can file a traditional mechanics lien if unpaid.

Bond Claim Rights Exists When Aircraft Hangar Is A State, County or Public Project

As you can see from the above discussion, most airports – even small “private” airports – are owned by the government. Sometimes the aircraft hangars on the field are owned by the government, too, and are build as part of a “public works project.”

When a state, county, municipal or other governmental entity commissions a project for an aircraft hangar to be build at an airport, the project is a public works project just like any other.

This means that traditional mechanics lien filings are not allowed. Instead, the general contractor will be required to post a payment bond at the start of the project and any unpaid parties will be qualified to file a bond claim against the same.

Private Aircraft Hangar on Public Airport Land Creates Complicated Lien Situation

But what if the aircraft hangar project is neither a private project on a private land nor a public project on public land? What if, instead, it is an aircraft hangar being built by a private entity but through a lease of land from the government?

While this situation does not arise a tremendous amount, you’ll either fall into one of these three categories when it does:

First, you may be in a state like New York, where the law simply does not contemplate or allow this situation. In New York there simply isn’t any lien right or lien-like remedy for unpaid parties furnishing labor or materials to a private project on public land.

Second, you may be in a state like Oklahoma, where the law specifically contemplates this. In these situations, Oklahoma requires the general contractor to get a bond as if it was a state contract. Therefore, unpaid contractors and suppliers can file a bond claim if unpaid.

Third, you may be in-between these other two, where the law does not disallow the lien but also does not specifically contemplate it. This is the situation in a state like Louisiana. Under a “private lease on public land” scenario in Louisiana, a mechanics lien may actually be filed by the claimant against the tenant’s “leasehold interest” in the property. The lien, therefore, is not against the property itself, but is instead against the tenants rights in the property.