Can I file a lien on stored material?

3 months ago

My company is working on a historic loft in Montgomery Alabama. We had to order specialized material because the building is historic. We have not shipped this material due to non payment. We can not return the material because it is specialized. Can we add this to our lien?

Additional info about this contractor
Project Role: Material Supplier
Project Type: Residential
Senior Legal Associate Levelset
355 reviews

Mechanics lien rights for specialty materials can create some confusion. When those materials are actually incorporated into the project, there’s little doubt – mechanics lien rights exist for those materials just like any other materials. But, when the materials haven’t been used yet and haven’t improved the property, then things become far less certain. Different states handle that situation differently. The general rule, though, is that when specialty materials are not actually used, those materials likely won’t be lienable.

Alabama seems to fall into the grey area. It appears that a material provider might potentially have a mechanics lien right for the full amount of the materials they’re providing to the project if a Notice to Owner is sent. Under § 35-11-210 of the Alabama mechanics lien statute, “…the furnisher of the material shall have a lien for the full price thereof as specified in the notice to the owner or proprietor…” unless the owner objects, in writing, to being responsible for the material costs. However, this section generally refers to whether a full price or unpaid balance lien can be filed – not whether specialty materials will be lienable. So, some skepticism may be in order.

Ultimately, though – it’s probably safer to exclude materials that aren’t actually incorporated into the project. That way, lien claims for other aspects of the job won’t be put in jeopardy by including more-questionable claims. Pursuing claims on those materials in another avenue might be a better idea. Alternatively, even filing a separate lien for those materials might make sense. That way, the separate lien could be released if it appears the lien for specialty materials was improper – and the validity of other claims wouldn’t be put in jeopardy.

Additional Alabama mechanics lien resources

For more information on Alabama mechanics liens, the resources below should provide a lot of insight.

– Alabama Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs
– How to File an Alabama Mechanics Lien – Step by Step Walkthrough

Other recovery tools can help before filing a mechanics lien becomes necessary

Keep in mind that mechanics liens are generally the nuclear option. And, utilizing some other payment recovery tools first can help to get paid while avoiding the headache of a lien claim.

For one, sending regular invoice reminders can push an owner to pay their bills. Or, if there’s a full-blown payment dispute at hand, then something stronger – like a payment demand letter – could do the trick. Finally, because a mechanics lien is such a powerful tool, the mere threat of a mechanics lien can lead to payment. So, sending a Notice of Intent to Lien will often force a customer or owner to talk deal, too.

What’s more, even where lien rights aren’t available, there are always other options for recovery that could be available. Further discussion here: Can’t File a Lien? Here Are Some Other Options For Recovery.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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