Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and was updated with new information in July 2017.
Mechanic liens and notices require certain data to correctly identify the property being liened. Incorrect and missing data can endanger your lien rights, such as causing the rejection of your lien by the county recorder, or causing the invalidation of your lien if foreclosure becomes necessary. In a 2017 study of levelset’s JobSight data, 82% of projects researched through levelset’s system showed that the claimant was providing incorrect or missing project data at the start of the job. Of these, 62% of projects had either a missing or conflicting Property Owner reported, and 13% were incorrectly identified as the wrong project type. These project data gaps can be caught by using a research tool such as JobSight, and by keeping in mind what property research should always entail.
3 Pieces of Data that Really Matter
Much of property research hinges on the following three pieces of data:
- Legal Description. Each state has specific requirements for what type of property description is required. However, sometimes particular counties may have different requirements for what they consider a “valid legal property description” on the submitted document. Most counties rely on several simple details that are easy to find, such as the APN or parcel number, and name of the town or city where the property is located. Other counties require the full legal property description to be submitted straight from the property deed. Select counties may even have special designations required to identify the property. For example, New York City boroughs require the Borough, Block, Lot identifier for the legal description and nothing else.
- Property Owner. Finding the current and true property owner can be difficult if the property has switched owners recently. Many counties will supply property owner information over the phone or online via the Assessor’s Office, but some do not disclose this information unless you visit their office in person. Generally speaking, the owner listed on the most current deed is important to include on the lien – which makes sense since mechanics liens encumber the owner’s interest in the property. Other contacts that may need to be listed on the document might include the current tenant, if there is one.
- Property Address and Details. While generally the most straightforward information to obtain when researching property, figuring out the correct property address can be trickier than expected. New property developments, such as a newly constructed residential community or commercial development in particular, can be difficult properties for which to find the correct address. Another relatively common issue is finding a zip code that falls in the range of two different counties.
The fulfillment team at levelset performs research tasks, and uses various methods to confirm or provide alternatives to the data provided by levelset uses. Often, this can include working with various county departments like the Assessor’s Office, and often utilizes the Geographic Information System (GIS) maps based out of each county where available to search for the correct property. When potential information conflicts with provided information, the fulfillment team at levelset must reach out to the claimant so that he/she can identity the correct parcel of land. This is often done by sending pictures of maps that outline the parcel in question, or by asking for any relevant parcel identifiers.
Researching property is not always an easy task, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Verifying your information before you begin a project ensures manageable property research, and asking your customer for available resources before you begin work may save you a valuable amount of time. Keep in mind many larger scale projects will often require the owner and general contractor to file bonds, notices of commencement, and other documents that are readily available for your use if you ask. An ideal checklist of information to ask for when commencing a project might include the following:
- A list of contact names and addresses of parties above you on the project, including any Lender, Surety or Bonding Company, Current Owner, General Contractor, and your hiring party.
- Any details of the property address that may be relevant to you, such as the physical address and proper county in which the property resides, as well as the parcel number and legal description when available.
- A copy of any legal notices filed before you begin work, such as a Notice of Commencement (generally only a required filing in some states, such as Florida, Georgia, and Michigan), or a copy of the Payment Bond when applicable.
Gathering all of the facts you might need is crucial to ensure competent property research, and make sure any potential lien claim contains the correct required information.
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