New York mechanics lien law is really, really straight forward – except for one nuance: When the mechanics lien must be filed.

The primary reason why the law is so straight-forward is that there aren’t any notice requirements. Project participants are not required to deliver preliminary notice before the project begins and they’re not required to delivery any notice of intent before filing a mechanics lien.  No notice = simple.

When it comes time to file the mechanics lien, however, lien claimants face two possible deadlines.  In some circumstances the mechanics lien must be filed within 8 months of last furnishing.  In other circumstances, the lien is due in just 4 months from that same date.  How to tell the difference?

This is also fairly easy.

All mechanics liens in New York must be filed within 8 months of last furnishing unless the lien is against a single-family dwelling.  If you furnished labor or materials to a “single-family dwelling,” your mechanics lien must be filed within just 4 months of last furnishing.

Annoyingly, the New York Lien Law does not define exactly what constitutes a “single-family dwelling.”  Instead it makes a brief statement in Lien Law §10 about what it is not:

For purposes of this section, the term “single family dwelling” shall not include a dwelling unit which is a part of a subdivision that has been filed with a municipality in which the subdivision is located when at the time the lien is filed, such property in the subdivision is owned by the developer for purposes other than his personal residence.

Figuring out what is and what is not a single-family dwelling should be pretty easy however.  Just ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the property a place where people live, i.e. a residence?
  2. Is it a residence to a single family?

If the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” you’re probably working on a single family dwelling. Take a look at this helpful definition from Wikipedia:

A single-family detached home, also called a single-detached dwelling or separate house is a free-standing residential building. It is defined in opposition to a multi-family dwelling.