Contractor flying a drone on a construction site | How drones can help with mechanics liens

Drones have proven themselves incredibly valuable in the construction industry. In this three part series we will discuss recent changes in FAA regulations, drones’ current and future uses, and how drones could impact mechanics liens.

How drones can improve your mechanics lien

When filing a mechanics lien, procedure is king. Even small mistakes can get a claim tossed. In order to preserve lien rights, a party must adhere to all notice requirements, abide by a slew of strict deadlines, and on top of all that, prove their claim.

At levelset, we recognize that the process to recover payment in construction can feel like a minefield. That’s why it is exciting when new technology comes along that can make the process easier. While discussing drone deliveries and drones assisting cranes may be a lot sexier, drones can have a real impact on mechanics liens, too.

Identifying the property

One of the most obvious ways drones can assist in the lien and bond process is with the identification of property. In order to enforce lien rights on a property, a party must identify the property for the court. By using a drone, a potential lienholder could quickly and easily obtain an up-to-date image of the property with the project in question actually included in the shot.

With GPS location, a drone could  even record the exact location of a project by its coordinates. This could provide a much more accurate alternative to aerial imaging and using Google maps. Though some states will also require a legal property description, having one more tool available can only help. As we have discussed before, construction photography can affect payment, and using drones could seriously impact property research for the better. A drone can be an important tool in a well-rounded document retention strategy.

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Calculating lien amounts

In order to perfect a mechanics lien, a party must have a correct lien amount. In order to properly calculate the amount of a lien, that party must describe the type of work done, how much labor was provided, and what materials were utilized. When these factors are not tracked or recorded, lien claims fail. Should amounts be incorrect or exaggerated, claimants can even face criminal charges in some states.

Now, imagine how much easier an eye in the sky would make that whole process. Utilizing technology that is already available, a contractor or subcontractor could easily monitor labor across a site. Drones could track progress over an extended period of time, making it easier to prove that work was provided. Suppliers could easily track the amount of materials used on a project, and have photographic evidence to prove it.

The use of drones could take a lot of the guesswork out of calculating lien amounts, and any tool that helps secure lien rights should be embraced by contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.

Liens for drone use

Another question will be if drone-related costs can be included in a lien claim. While drones may automate some functions such as inspections and site security, they can still be expensive. However, including the cost of wages paid for drone operation in a lien amount could cause trouble.

Mechanics liens are meant to provide security to those laborers and suppliers for improvements to a property. While drones may certainly help contractors and subcontractors with those improvements, it will be interesting to see how drone costs and operation will be treated by legislature and the courts. It’s easy to imagine a court striking down drone costs as unnecessary or claiming their use provides no real, long term value to the property. Considering drones will lower the costs of the projects to consumers, contractors may not see the humor in that irony.

The distinction may even be made depending on whether the drone operation was done in-house or subbed out. If a company has subcontracted to provide these services to a project, they might have a tough time convincing a court that their service should be the basis for a lien. However, if the costs of drone operation came along with other, more permanent improvements, it is easier to imagine these costs factoring into a lien for other large scale improvements.

One area where it may be a little more clear is surveying work via drone. Whether surveying work can be liened will vary from state to state, but if your state allows liens for surveyors, it should make little difference if that work is done by drone.

Drones may help protect your lien rights

From site mapping, to short range deliveries, to drones aiding cranes, the possibilities are endless. The up front costs of drones may be substantial, but over the life of the equipment drones could reduce costs and headaches.

Drones may even make securing lien rights easier! Embracing technology in the construction industry is a great way to get ahead. Managers who can optimize the use of drones in construction projects just might have a leg up on the competition.

Drones in Construction: Drones and Mechanics Liens
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Drones in Construction: Drones and Mechanics Liens
The use of drones in construction is starting to seem inevitable. Other uses may be sexier, but drones could have a real impact with mechanics liens.
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Lien Law News
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