Mechanics Lien
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What is a Mechanics Lien?

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Contractors and suppliers can file a mechanics lien when unpaid on a construction project. These lien filings cause disruptions to the flow of funds, and put the unpaid contractor/supplier in the best position to get paid.  There are many effects to a project and property caused by a mechanics lien filing, which is explored further in our article, the 17 ways a mechanics lien works to get you paid.

As you’ll see in that article, filing a mechanics lien:

  • Actually freezes the property, prohibiting it from being sold, transferred, refinanced, etc.;
  • It can throw the project’s GC in default of their contract with the owner;
  • It gets multiple parties, like lenders and owners, involved in the payment claim;
  • Etc.

Lien filings nearly guarantee payment for contractors and suppliers. In fact, it’s sometimes even called “security” or “collateral.”  Mechanics lien claims also go by a variety of other names — construction lien, property lien, claim of lien, laborers lien, contractors lien, suppliers lien, and even weird names like, in Louisiana, the “statement of claim and privilege.”

The right to file a lien is built directly into the law of every state as a way to protect construction participants from nonpayment. This fundamental U.S. public policy of protecting the payment for construction dates back to Thomas Jefferson. In many states — like California and Texas — the right to file a lien is actually baked right into the state’s constitution!

One important note about “lien” protection is that this is typically only available on “private” construction jobs – or, in other words, commercial, residential, privately-owned, and industrial projects. Publically owned property cannot be “liened,” but does have a similar remedy available through bond claims and required payment bonds. Get help figuring out what type of project you may be on here:  Types of Construction Projects: What They Are & Why You Should Care.

Filing a construction lien is a great remedy for contractors and suppliers not paid…but, there is a dilemma.

Preserving and using the mechanic’s lien right can be quite tricky.

Mechanics lien filing from suppliers when unpaidThere are many rules and requirements (such as the requirement in most states to send a preliminary notice at the start of a construction project!). And, unfortunately, the rules are different from state-to-state and project-to-project.

Those expecting to be paid on a construction project should take great care in understanding the lien & notice requirements that apply to their job, the lien deadlines, and must be proactive in keeping the company in a “secured” or “lienable” position from the very start of the job.

Those who are facing a lien claim against them or their project will want to examine the applicable requirements and confirm that the lien filing party has conformed to them.  In the event that a lien is invalid or improperly filed, a process can be used to demand the lien gets removed. Otherwise, property owners, construction lenders, general contractors, and other interested parties can seek to bond off the lien, to accelerate its expiration period, and/or to otherwise figure out a way to compromise and resolve the issue.

The bottom line is that lien rights are powerful, and effective, and they exist to empower contractors, suppliers, and others working in the construction industry to get what they earn. Levelset’s comprehensive lien and lien law resources — which includes state-by-state guides, forms, frequently asked questions, and more — will help you better understand the mechanic’s lien process that applies to your state and job.

See this post for a detailed step-by-step guide on how to file your mechanics lien.

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State-by-State Map Of
Lien Deadlines, Rules, & Guides

What are the lien deadlines and lien rules in your state? The below map will give you an answer at a quick glance. Explore our 50-state mechanics lien resources and guides more fully, which includes thousands of forms, charts, blog articles, and more, by clicking on the state your interested in learning more about below.

Lien Deadline
Calculation Rules
  • Lien Deadline
    Calculation Rules
  • Mechanics Lien Enforcement
    Deadline Heat Map
  • Full Price or
    Unpaid Balance Liens
  • Supplier to Suppliers
    Lien Rights
  • Which States Prohibit
    Waiving Lien Rights
  • Lien deadlines calculated from your last furnishing
  • Lien deadlines calculated from project's completion
  • Lien deadlines calculated in some combination
  • 90 days/3 months or less (RI- 40 days)
  • 180 days/6 months
    (ME, NH, & OR- 120 days) (DE subs/supps- 120 days)
  • 1 year (WA- 8 mos)
  • 2 years
    (AK- 15 mos) (TX- 1 yr residential) (ND- 3 yrs)
  • 6 years
  • Full Price
  • Unpaid Balance
  • Suppliers to suppliers likely do not have rights
  • Suppliers to suppliers likely have rights
  • Suppliers to suppliers likely may have rights
  • Lien rights cannot be waived
  • Lien rights can be waived
  • No explicit law
  • Law is Conflicting

Mechanics Lien Frequently Asked Questions

The lien process is complicated. And you're stressed about payment or some payment dispute. Here are some questions about the lien & lien filing process that may be on your mind. It will help you feel at ease that you're doing the right thing for your business. Whether you need to get a lien filed, or are dealing with a lien filed against your job, these questions & answers will help you understand what you need to know.

Why File A Mechanics Lien?

  • Are you being slow-paid?
  • Is someone making up a dispute about your work to avoid payment?
  • Are you unpaid because your customer can’t get paid from the owner?
Getting paid in the construction industry can be tough, but you’re in the business of doing or supplying to construction work, not financing construction projects. All of these above items are good reasons why you should be looking at the lien rights remedy. A lien claim may put you in the best position possible to get paid on a job.

Is a lien filing right for you? Every situation is different, but filing a lien is generally the right thing to do if you're owed money on a construction job. Even if you think you may ultimately get paid, it's a best practice to file a lien when unpaid.

Will A Mechanics Lien Work to get me paid?

We get hundreds of liens paid every week for contractors just like you. Now it’s your turn.

When you file a mechanics lien, you are using the most effective collections remedy available to you. Construction liens are so effective because they create so many avenues for payment. Here are 17 different ways lien claims work to get you paid, such as:
  • Liens freeze construction project funds.
  • Liens turn the job site into your collateral.
  • Liens stop the property from being sold, financed, or transferred.
  • Liens create contractual problems for other parties.

Can I lien the project right when I start work? And should I?

It's common to hear something like this in the industry. Frequently, a contractor may wonder whether they should just "lien the job right from the beginning." This, however, is not a common practice, it's not a best practice, and it's probably not a legal practice.

It's not a common or best practice because it's extremely adversarial to just file a lien right at the start of a project. This remedy should be used as a last resort if unpaid on a job for an extended time. Filing it at the start of a job is the opposite of how it should be done.

And further, it's probably not legal to do this. A "fraudulant" lien or "frivolous lien" is one that is filed inappropriately. It's inappropriate to file a lien when you're not owed anything on a job. If you filed right after doing work, that would be legal. You can't file before doing the work, though, because without the work, you lack any lien rights!

Do I have the right to file a lien claim?

This is a difficult question. Generally, anyone who worked on or supplied materials to a construction job has a right to file a lien, but there may be other qualifications. Browse our FAQs, or ask your legal question on our Expert Center.

What if I didn't finish work on the project, can I still file a lien?

This is an extremely common question because in so many cases the need to file a lien arises because something happened on the job and a contractor or supplier has stopped contributing. Nevertheless, the answer to the question is almost always YES! If you didn't finish the job, you're still likely able to file a lien. The lien will be for you to get paid for the work or materials that you did provide on the job.

We made a quick video that will help you understand this better, here:

Do Mechanics Liens go by any other names?

It can be quite confusing, but mechanics liens can go by many different names (and spellings).

It’s common to see the word “mechanics” written in the possessive – “mechanic’s.” Additionally, mechanics liens also go by names such as “construction lien,” “property lien,” “laborer’s lien,” “materialman’s lien” or even an “artisan’s lien” or “design professional’s lien” in certain circumstances.

Who needs to use a lien?

This question must be broken down into two separate parts: Who needs to use a mechanics lien, and Who is allowed to use a mechanics lien.

The parties that may need to use a mechanics lien are parties who furnish labor or material to a work of improvement (construction project) and who remain unpaid. Although, as described below, there may be relationship or other issues to consider prior to filing a mechanics lien.

Slow payment and nonpayment are known and prevalent problems with respect to payment in the construction industry, and mechanics liens are one of the most powerful ways to ensure that payment will be made. Mechanics liens are, however, the four-letter word or the nuclear option with respect to construction payment. The same reasons that mechanics liens are so phenomenally effective are the reasons that companies usually wish to avoid them.

The question of who is allowed to use a mechanics lien to secure payment is a bit more complex. First the potential mechanics lien claimant must be a party entitled to mechanics lien protection. This determination varies from state to state, but usually requires (at the least) that the claimant furnished labor or material to a private work of improvement on real property, that the labor or material furnished was for the permanent improvement of the property, that all prerequisite notice requirements have been complied with, and that all rules and requirements related to the mechanics lien itself (timing, form, filing, service, etc.) have been met.

As mentioned, however, the parties entitled to mechanics lien protection, and both the prerequisite requirements and mechanics lien requirements all vary from state to state, from project to project, and by the claimant’s particular role. These determinations can be exceptionally complex, please see the state-by-state and role-by-role breakout section for more detailed information.

In what circumstances is a lien normally used?

Liens are normally used as a last resort to get paid for work done on or materials furnished to a private construction project. In many situations, the claimant may make a determination whether they intend to do future jobs with the property owner, GC, or others up-the-chain, and weigh that factor in the decision with whether to move forward with a claim. While a lien is a right and a tool given to construction participants in ensure payment, it is the “nuclear option” for recovery. For that reason, in many situations, the mechanics lien tool is used after all options to recover payment, other than initiating a lawsuit, have failed, or if communication has broken down on the project with respect to payment.

Do the rules and processes to file a lien change according to the project location?

Yes, while the fundamental concept of a lien or payment claim (and generally, the ultimate result) does not change depending on the project location, pretty much everything else can and does.

From a practical standpoint, the prerequisite notice requirements, the recording requirements, the timelines and deadlines, the information required on the lien document, and more, can all change depending on the project location. These rules and requirements can be exceptionally complex, and a state-by-state breakout section outlining and describing the rules and requirements for every state can be found here.

Do the rules and processes to file a lien change according to the project type?

In a similar manner to whether the rules change with respect to project location, they can also change according to project type. Also similarly, the fundamental concept of a lien (and generally, the ultimate result) does not change depending on the project type, but other things can.

Liens against property are not allowed on public projects. And, there are situations in which liens and the surrounding requirements can change depending on the particular type of private improvement, as well – i.e. the rules regarding and availability of these claims may vary based on whether the project involves an owner-occupied residential property. See the 50 state-by-state breakdown for more information.

What happens if I make a mistake?

Making a mistake with preparing, filing, and serving your lien claim can have significant consequences.

Lien statutes are interesting in that many have specific requirements that they be broadly interpreted in favor of expending lien protection, but they must be strictly construed with respect to meeting the statutory requirements and prerequisites. Simple or tiny mistakes or omissions can result in a mechanics lien being invalid (even if recorded). Losing the security afforded by the mechanics lien, and the associated near-guarantee of payment is only one potential consequence, however.

Filing a fraudulent or improper lien can result in stiff fines, damages, and criminal penalties. And, even if a lien is not fraudulent but is invalid for other reasons, failure to remove the lien can result in liability for damages incurred by the interested parties with respect to the invalid lien. Losing out on security for payment is a harsh enough consequence by itself, but adding liability or penalties on top is exceptionally significant and painful.

Is a Mechanics Lien usually paired with anything else?

These are generally stand-alone documents, but they come at the end of a process in which many other documents may be required. Most states have some sort of notice requirement that must be met prior to claiming a lien. And, there will likely be many requests for payment or other correspondence that are exchanged prior to the filing and service of the lien.

With respect to the lien itself, some states and situations call for certain documents to be attached to the lien as exhibits. For example, a copy of a required notice or affidavit of such notice’s delivery, a copy of the claimant’s contract or invoices, or some other supporting document may be required to be attached. These rules vary from state to state, and occasionally from project to project.

What do I do after a lien is filed?

After the lien is filed and served, you'll want to followup with the project stakeholders to request payment. Read more at The 4 Things You Have to Do After Filing A Mechanics Lien.

You can also watch this video:

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Recent Questions & Answers
About Mechanic Liens

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Have A Payment Problem & Thinking About A Lien? Get Help Deciding What To Do Next.

Need help getting paid on a construction job?

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Let's talk about the project

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What did you contribute to the job? (select all that apply)
When did you work on the project?

If you don't know these dates, give your best estimate. Since these dates determine your notice and lien deadlines, it's important to be as accurate as possible.

Did you fulfill this project's notice requirements?

Did you send a {document type} to the {contractor role}
and general contractor by {deadline date}?

Did you send monthly notices for this project?

In Texas, subcontractors and suppliers are required to send a notice for each month that work is performed and unpaid. Based on your project type and role, your job has the following notice requirements. Did you fulfill this notice requirement?

What is my job's monthly notice requirement?

For subcontractors on residential proejcts, notice is required to be sent to the owner and prime contractor by the 15th day of the 2nd month following each month that work was performed and unpaid.

What is my job's monthly notice requirement?

For subcontractors on non-residential projects, notice is required to be sent by the 15th day of the 3rd month following each month work was performed and unpaid.

What is my job's monthly notice requirement?

For sub-subcontractors, notice is required to be sent on both the 15th day of the 2nd month, and the 15th day of the 3rd month following each month in which work was performed and unpaid.

What is my job's monthly notice requirement?

For suppliers on residential projects, notice is required to be sent to the owner and prime contractor by the 15th day of the 2nd month following each month that work was performed and unpaid.

What is my job's monthly notice requirement?

For suppliers on non-residential projects, notice is required to be sent both the 15th day of the 2nd month, and the 15th day of the 3rd month following each month in which work was performed and unpaid. (The 2nd month notice has to be sent only to the prime contractor.)

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Your company is a {contractor role} hired by the {hiring role} on a {project type} project at {project address}

You did not send a {document type} before {deadline date}. Need to send a preliminary notice by {deadline date}.

How Does It Work To File A Lien With Levelset?

Getting your lien filed with Levelset online is as easy as 1-2-3

Answer A Few Easy Questions

Answer a few simple questions about your job and the money owed to you. This will take 10 minutes or less.

Your Doc Is Assembled & Filed

Your document is assembled and filed with the appropriate recording office. All filing fees are paid for you, and a copy of the lien is served on the property owner.

You Get Paid.

You get paid. You'll get a copy of the final recorded lien from us. Then, just work out with the owner, lender, or other contractors to get paid and collect on your lien.

Watch: How to file a Mechanics Lien (in every state)

More Helpful Articles & Content on Mechanic Liens


A Short History Of The Mechanic Lien

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How to File a Mechanics Lien – Step by Step Guide For Any State

A step-by-step guide on how to file a mechanics lien for any state in the United States. Outlines the process...

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Can A Contractor File A Mechanics Lien If They Didn’t Finish The Work?

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Mechanics Lien Claim May Entitle You To Attorney Fees and Other Costs

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Can I File A Mechanics Lien If I Didn’t Send Preliminary Notice?

So, let's say you were required to send preliminary notice and you didn't send it. What now? Unfortunately, you're probably...

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Contractor’s Dirty Secret When Threatening To Bond Off Your Mechanics Lien

“Want to know a dirty secret in the construction industry?,” asks an article we posted a while ago about threats...

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Mechanics Lien v. Notice of Intent to Lien: What’s The Difference?

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