Can I still file a mechanic’s lien even if I didn’t file a pre-lien notice in TN?

2 weeks ago

I was hired to install a french drain. I completed the work, and the client refused to pay me, stating I installed the drain improperly.

Additional info about this contractor
Project Role: Owner
Project Type: Residential
Legal Associate Levelset
116 reviews

If you didn’t comply with the TN preliminary notice requirement, you will likely be unable to file a lien. To be sure, let’s do a quick recap of the notice requirements. We know this is a residential project, so let’s break down these requirements by role:

  • Direct contractors (hired by the owner)- A Notice to Owner needs to be provided prior to commencing the work or executing the contract.
    • Furthermore, if the project is an owner-occupied 1-4 family residential project, certain language must be contained in the contract itself.
  • All other claimants– must send a Notice of Nonpayment to the owner within 90 days of the last day of the month labor or materials were provided and unpaid
    • Separate notices will be required for each month of non-payment

Keep in mind, that if the project is a 1-4 unit residential property, only prime/direct contractors will have lien rights. If the owner is acting as the GC, then 1st tier subs may have lien rights.

Failure to send the Notice to Owner is fatal to your lien rights. As far as the monthly Notice of Nonpayment, since this is a recurring notice, some rights may be retained if one or more notices were sent within the timeframe, and others weren’t. If you’ve complied with these notice requirements, then you will have 90 days after completion of the work to file your Tennessee mechanics lien claim.

Here are some additional resources:

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: NOTE. The information presented here is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed nor relied upon as such. Furthermore, this posting does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, seek the counsel of a licensed, local attorney.
1 found this helpful
Guest
Anonymous

Alex – Homewoner on record is actually deceased. We were hired by the son-in-law-of the deceased. Home is NOT owner occupied. Does this change anything??

Legal Associate Levelset
116 reviews

Under Tennessee law, an “owner-occupant” is defined as “any owner of real property who, at the time the owner contracts for the improvement of the real property, occupies the real property as the owner’s principal place of residence.” It would seem that this wouldn’t apply to your situation.

In any case, if the residential property is not “owner-occupied” then the only difference would be that subcontractors and other project participants that didn’t contract directly with the owner will have the right to file a lien. However, the notice requirements (Notice to Owner for direct contractors, and Notice of Nonpayments for others) will still be required to secure mechanics lien rights. Without those, your recovery options may be limited to a lawsuit against your hiring party for breach of contract or quantum meruit or passing the debt off to a collection agency.

If this is the route you wish to take, you should reach out to a local, Tennessee construction attorney to help advise you on your specific situation and options moving forward. We have a few Tennessee attorneys in our Expert Center community that may be able to assist you.

Good Luck!

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: NOTE. The information presented here is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed nor relied upon as such. Furthermore, this posting does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, seek the counsel of a licensed, local attorney.
1 found this helpful
Guest
Anonymous

Alex – THANK YOU!! I sent out of Notice of Non-Payment, and went ahead and filed my paperwork (Sworn Affidavit to Owner, and Notice of Lien) with the County Register’s office today. Your forms were so helpful. The Register told me a did a great job of completing the forms. Fingers crossed the Owner’s Rep pays quickly, as we did this work so they could actually put the property on the market. Hopefully I have preserved my payment rights.

Legal Associate Levelset
116 reviews

No problem! We’re always here to help you get paid what you’ve earned.

For any future projects, keep in mind that in addition to the free form templates, Levelset also offers lien and bond notice services for free. All you have to do is input the project information, and we take care of the rest. That way you can save yourself a trip to the recorder’s office, and ensure they get sent properly and on time.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: NOTE. The information presented here is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed nor relied upon as such. Furthermore, this posting does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, seek the counsel of a licensed, local attorney.
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