The construction payment process is complicated, and you’ve done everything right, but you aren’t getting paid. You are considering filing a mechanic’s lien in order to collect the money that you are owed. The question is: should you do it yourself, hire a lien filing service, or turn it over to your attorney?
We can’t answer that question for you because every situation is different, but we can give you information to help you make an informed choice and feel confident that it’s done right. This post details some of the best mechanics lien filing services nationwide.
Best Lien Filing Services in the United States
There are dozens of services and hundreds of options to help you get your lien filed. If you decide to use a lien service to help file a lien, here are some of the best options that offer nationwide services, in no particular order.
Web site: www.lienitnow.com
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Year started: 2007
Reviews: 5 stars and A+ rating on BBB (4 reviews), 5 stars on Facebook (3 reviews)
Services and Costs:
Preliminary notices – $50
Mechanic’s liens – $299
Bond claims – $279
Lien discharge (removal) – $125
Lien waivers – $50
Founded by three construction attorneys in New Jersey, LienItNow has a mission statement to “assist the construction industry in finding affordable ways to obtain payment for work performed.” Their New Jersey headquarters is a bonus for anyone who needs to file a lien in that state, one of the only states that require a “wet-signature” (non-printed, ink signed copy) from the claimant. Any lien filing service helping file liens in the state of New Jersey will need to send the mechanics lien documents out to the claimant for a signature and then have it mailed back before it can be recorded. This typically adds time to process a document, but when you’re in the same state, things move faster.
LienItNow has a simple three-step process to filing a mechanic’s lien that allows you to see the document being edited in real-time as you add your information. Here’s a simple breakdown of the process:
- Complete an online form that will take 10 minutes.
- The information you entered is checked by their staff, and a completed lien document is sent to you.
- You review it, download it, sign it, then return it to Lien It Now for recording and serving.
It takes about 48 hours for the completed lien to be sent, after completion of step 1. Rush, same-day, service is available for an additional fee.
With a support line and live chat displayed prevalently on their website, you should be able to get in touch with their team with ease and make sure they can help with your exact payment problem in your state and county. Because rules vary widely from state to state – we always suggest checking with customer support before diving into your first order.
The pricing page on their website is riddled with asterisks* that reflects “do it yourself pricing” or “full service” pricing, forcing you to do a little math and weigh a variety of options before making a decision on how to proceed. There is also a lack of transparency on “filing fees” that vary state by state – as opposed to a flat fee for filing a lien. Their page even says “certain filing fees may be charged by LienItNow in its discretion if the filing fee is in excess of the average filing fee charged by other states, counties or cities.” Some counties in select states can charge upwards of $300 in filing fees, other counties only charge $25. Explore our county pages that help you understand the filing fees associated with each county.
LienItNow’s software is there for anyone who needs to deal with a payment problem by filing a lien, but that seems to be about it. If you are looking for a more comprehensive software that can help with all your payment paperwork needs, you may want to keep looking.
Their 5-star rating looks good at first glance, but the number of reviews is a little disappointing if you’re someone who needs some serious social proof to feel confident protecting your right to get paid.
National Lien and Bond
Web site: mechanicslien.com
Location: Highland Park, IL
Year started: 1985
Reviews: 4 stars on Google (4 reviews)
Services and Costs:
No cost information is listed on their website. Taking them up on their offer for a free consultation would be the best way to figure out the cost for your specific needs.
National Lien and Bond (NLB for short) is an organization that collects the information on the lien you want to file, and then finds a lawyer in your area to assist you with the process. Serving all fifty states is quite impressive considering the strict requirements for delivery and recording of liens in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Hawaii. While their team is not massive (Linkedin says between 11-50), they manage a very large network of licensed attorneys and general council that can help you manage payments.
Their network includes over 150 law firms in the US, Canada, and Latin America. Their facebook touts that they have helped to “secure more than $4 billion in receivables over our 35 years in business.” Pretty impressive!
So how does all of this work? It appears that NLB does more than just help you file your liens. Their wide product offering ranges from helping manage a preliminary notice policy all the way to litigation over complex payment issues. Their website explains how they help customers almost exclusively as a service, not software.
Given their expertise and long-standing track record, choosing NLB to help file liens seems like a safe bet, though we can assume it’s more expensive than any of the software-based options out there. Service companies have their pros and cons, and there are a lot out there. Make a few calls and see which one works best for you. Remember you will be working with people, so make sure the service you are getting on the phone and in email is timely, friendly, and helpful before signing any long term contracts.
Web site: www.lienguardinc.com
Location: Oak Brook, IL
Year started: 1983
Reviews: 5 stars on Google (5 reviews)
Services and Costs:
Preliminary notices – $75 ($100 in Illinois)
Mechanic’s liens – $495
Bond claims – $185
Lien discharge – $115
LienGuard has over 40 years of experience in handling construction liens, they operate in all 50 states, and have a seven business day turnaround time for a lien. All of the fees for their services are spelled out clearly on their pricing page. The only services that don’t have a price are “research” and county recording fees in CA, CT, MA, MN, and PA.
They don’t have many reviews, and the five from Google are all a year or more old. There are no social media accounts for them, except for a Facebook page with very little information and no posts. Employees don’t even identify themselves on LinkedIn. Not much to go on if you are trying to gauge their reputation.
There are two lawsuits that show up when searching for LienGuard. One is a 2014 case in North Carolina that charges they were providing legal services without the oversight of an attorney. The other is in Ohio in 2010, and has similar charges. In both states, they have been prohibited from filing lien documents, except they can provide scrivener services, where they transfer the information given to them by their customer to a legal document. It is always advised to check with an attorney when preparing any legal document, especially when dealing with liens and notices, since there are so many differences between the states.
If your project is in North Carolina or Ohio, be sure to confirm that they are allowed to work in those states. It would be really bad if you paid $500 for a lien that wasn’t valid because of who produced it.
Web site: titanlien.com
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Year started: 2000
Reviews: 1 complaint and C+ rating on BBB
Services and Costs:
Preliminary notices – $25
Mechanic’s liens – $350
Bond claims – $350
Lien discharge – $50
Lien waivers – Free
Titan Lien was purchased by Billd, a trade credit service, and provides lien document processing. They offer similar services to the others we’ve reviewed, as well as annual lien law seminars, volume discounts, and monthly billing.
Billd is a payment service that allows suppliers to get paid immediately for their materials, and gives contractors up to 120 days to pay those amounts back, plus monthly interest. It is like a credit card with extended payment terms tailored specifically for the construction industry.
Titan offers an online portal that allows you to track, view, and manage your lien documents. Cloud computing has become quite safe, and many companies are offering software that uses it. It’s widespread accessibility is great for those who are constantly on the go, and you don’t have to worry about where you saved that preliminary notice when someone requests it.
Titan lacks reviews of any kind, except for the one complaint on the BBB site, and their social media has only been active recently. It is hard to tell what kind of experience you will have with them.
Web site: simplifile.com
Location: Provo, UT
Year started: 2000
Reviews: 5 stars on Facebook (3 reviews)
Services and Costs:
A one-year subscription to the Simplifile eRecording service is available for only $390 the first year (and $340 per year thereafter), plus a per document submission fee of only $5.00.
Simplifile is different than the other services we’ve been talking about. It is just an online document recording service. The process starts with you providing the document that needs to be recorded, scanning it and sending it to them, then they send it to the county for electronic recording. It’s not clear how much they charge for this service, or how much it costs to record a document (which can vary by county and document size), so be sure to inquire about fees before you start.
This is a great service if you already have the correct form and all the information that is needed to file a lien and just want someone to take care of recording it. We’ve written about the pitfalls of electronic recording before. The main thing is to verify that this type of recording is accepted in the state and county that the job is located in and for the type of document you are trying to file.
Levelset (formerly zlien)
Web site: www.levelset.com
Location: New Orleans, LA and Austin, TX
Year started: 2007
Reviews: 4.9 stars on Google (168 reviews), 4.9 on TrustPilot (2,500+ reviews), 4.9 stars on Facebook (9 reviews)
Services and Costs:
Preliminary notices – Free
Notice of Intent to Lien – Free
Mechanic’s liens – $349
Bond claims – $349
Lien discharge – $149
Lien waivers – Free
Preliminary notice tracking – Free
Levelset is a full-service lien document processor, like several of the other companies on this list. They provide their services a la carte or through their proprietary software.
Levelset provides a payment solution to your payment problems. The focus is not on filing a lien, but rather on promoting collaboration and stakeholder visibility that will allow everyone to get what they earn.
They do this by focusing on the SET methodology (See everyone on the job – Exchange paperwork – Talk it out if there is a payment problem). Their service allows customers to identify everyone who needs to be paid and try to work out disagreements before a lien needs to be filed. If that doesn’t work, however, they can help with lien filing services in all 50 states.
They have more reviews than the other top services, and have an active social media presence. Their web site is built as an information hub for all things related to construction payments and the lien process. If you have a question regarding a lien or a required notice, you are bound to find the answer on Levelset’s web site, without the attorney’s fees.
Should you file a lien yourself or hire a lien service?
“How hard can it be to file a mechanic’s lien?” you ask yourself. Well, although it may not be hard, there are lots of details that need to be brought together so your lien is valid.
You first want to make sure you know your state’s lien filing process. How long do you have to file it and what does the form need to look like? Some states have very specific wording and formatting requirements, and if your document doesn’t meet these standards, it will be invalid.
The data you provide on the lien document (owner info, customer info, job address) must be 100% accurate or your lien will not be valid. Good research is a necessity when filing a lien.
Due to the statutory deadlines for filing a lien, you often need to act quickly. Lien services can help expedite this process while you continue doing what you do best.
After the lien has been recorded, notice must be sent to the parties involved, either by registered mail or served directly to the parties, depending on the state’s requirements. You must track and keep the documentation that proves the notice was sent to each party, in case you must foreclose on the lien.
Most lien services will do the research to make sure the information on the lien form is correct, create the lien on the proper form, send it for recording, and either serve or mail notices to the affected parties. This means all you may have to do is fill out a form online and the rest can be hands-off.
If you decide to file a lien yourself, it is advisable to get some help, such as Rocket Lawyer, Simplifile, and even Levelset, to make sure everything is done correctly. Levelset is willing help you as much or as little as you want.
Problems with lien services
Most lien services will not be able to provide you with legal advice, so if that is what you are looking for, you’ll have to talk to an attorney.
As was mentioned above, the accuracy of the information on the lien document is very important. Make sure the lien service you choose provides property record checks as part of their services, so you will know the information is accurate.
Some services have only been around for a short time, or they may not be reputable. Be sure to check each one out thoroughly before deciding. Look at their software and user experience (ask to see a demo), their reputation (ask for references), and their stability.
What does it cost to file a mechanic’s lien?
The process of filing a lien is complicated. There are some costs you will have to pay no matter how you choose to file your lien. These hidden costs include recording fees, serving or mailing costs, and the cost for the time it takes to gather the data to complete the lien form.
If you choose to file the lien yourself, you will need to pay the costs above plus the cost of your time to prepare the lien document, file it with the recorder, and then mail or serve the lien documents to the parties involved. You will also have to pay for either discharge of the lien if you get paid or for a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien if you do not.
Attorneys charge for liens in different ways. You may pay a flat fee for the preparation of the lien document, they may charge hourly, or it may be part of a retainer agreement. You can expect to pay over $1000 for the preparation, and you will have to pay the hidden costs above as well. Any additional communication with the attorney, either during the lien process or after, will raise this cost. Then there will be additional costs to discharge the lien or foreclose on it.
Lien services will charge from $300 to $500 for the preparation of a lien document. Some include the mailing and serving of documents. Make sure you know which costs are included in their fee so there are no surprises. Discharge of a lien is around $100, but you will need to use an attorney if you must foreclose.
Do you have the RIGHT to file a lien?
In most states, filing a lien is a statutory right that you gain as a result of working on or providing materials for real property improvements. Since the work and materials can’t be “returned,” the law allows you to file a lien and attach it to the property if you aren’t paid.
General contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and rental equipment providers all have the right to file a lien if they aren’t paid. If you have sent all the documents you were supposed to send, then you have the right to this payment remedy, as long as you are within the window of time allowed by the law for the state the project is in.
If you aren’t sure what your next step should be in trying to collect a late payment, check out our Payment Rights Advisor.