This article was originally published on December 5, 2011 and was updated on January 6, 2017.
Regardless of where you’ve performed construction work, if you’re interested in filing a mechanics lien it’s important to consider where you fall in the construction chain. For instance, were you the prime contractor, a subcontractor, a sub-subcontractor or supplier? Properly identifying yourself has consequences for the type of notices required, the time frame when your lien must be filed, and even the lien form you’ll need to use.
One other important thing to consider is whether the property owner commissioned the work. As mentioned in a previous post, in some states, property improvements commissioned by a tenant are sometimes not eligible for mechanic lien protection (or at least not the same level of protection).
How are all these considerations affected when at the top of the construction chain sits a property manager or property management company, and not the property owner?
The answer is, it really doesn’t.
Almost every state’s laws treat the property owner and the property owner’s “agent” as one in the same. Accordingly, when you’re hired by a property manager or property management company, your mechanic lien rights and responsibilities are pretty much identical to those you would have if you were hired directly by the property owner.
Things get hairy when you move away from the idea of a property manager, however, and begin to consider just who is and who is not the property owner’s agent. Isn’t a prime contractor just the owner’s agent? What about a construction manager?
There are quite a number of scenarios like this to consider, and the unfortunate answer is that each state treats these questions differently. Usually, they even boil down to factual inquiries and can change from project-to-project, such that a prime contractor can be considered an owner’s agent in one project, but not in another. It’s just plain confusing.
For our purposes here, know that property managers are pretty easy ones. They are typically agents of the owner.