Hint: It’s not a lien for a hipster…
What Is an Artisan’s Lien?
An artisan’s lien (or artisans lien) is a regular mechanics lien that’s used by a design professional to secure their payment rights on a construction project or job. A design professional typically performs professional services and requires state licensing or registration. In the construction industry, design professionals include architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, and others that perform similarly, “professional” work.
That’s all pretty straightforward, right? Well, that’s where the clarity on the subject of artisans liens ends, because the issue of lien rights for design professionals varies from state to state. Read on for a brief overview of lien rights for artisans and design professionals.
What’s So Special About an Artisans Lien?
Contrary to what you may have heard, an artisans lien is not a special lien for hipsters. Artisans liens don’t necessarily live in Brooklyn. Artisans liens are not made from organic, free-range ingredients. And you won’t find an artisans lien dressed in skinny jeans, wearing a trucker hat, with an abundance of tattoos and facial hair. No, an artisans lien isn’t special in that sense – as we noted above, an artisans lien is just a regular mechanics lien for a design professional, aka artisan.
However, there is something special about design professionals who collectively occupy a unique stratum in the construction industry. Why? Because it’s often the case that “these individuals and firms conduct work many times prior to the actual commencement of construction.” In other instances, design professionals are hired as supervising agents to manage the construction process as it’s happening. Either way, a design professional’s work can be somewhat intangible when compared to all of the other work that goes into a construction project. Design professionals typically don’t provide the labor or materials that physically go into the structure being built or improved upon during the project, rather, they provide the designs, drawings and plans that the other parties on a project use as their roadmap to guide their work. When it comes to lien rights management, this distinction is significant and further complicates an already confusing area of construction law.
I Wish They All Could Be California Artisans
If you’re an artisan in California, then congratulations, because when it comes to lien rights for design professionals, California does it right. California’s design professionals lien specifically covers design work done before the actual field work has commenced on a project. Utah also does a good job in this area, allowing for both preconstruction service liens and construction service liens.
On the other hand, there are a few states where artisans are going to have a more difficult time. State laws in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, and Vermont prescribe no lien rights for design professionals, so an artisan that has a payment problem on a construction project in one of those states is going to have to find another way to try to get paid.