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

TennesseeMechanics LienPreliminary Notice

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.

6 replies

Jun 25, 2020
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:
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Jun 25, 2020
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??
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Jun 25, 2020
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!
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Jun 26, 2020
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.
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Jun 26, 2020
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!
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Jan 25, 2021
I stopped to help someone broke down with car broke down and it had a very small fluid fire he begged for help he had his car towed to my garage he paid for parts paid me a little then decided he no longer wanted the car fixed after 700 in parts and a full weeks work he had only paid 200 towards labor he then ask to rent a car and ask me to try and do anything I could even if I had to duct tape the car together he still wanted me to fix the car he then left in my car to drive two hours to see his wife and planned to drive back that same day 5 days later he only returned back to me with my car because I told him his car was backed together and ready he ask me to test drive the car good to make sure it was ready and he had already left headed to my garage and was only about 30 minutes away when I took the test drive like he had ask and it wasn’t looking or sounding good so I pulled it back in the garage to check it over again and he begged me again said he had to be able to drive back to his friends house 2 hours away was there anything I could do to make his car work I told him he already owed 250 labor and 200 car rental and ther was also about 60 to 75 bucks in parts and fluids left to pay he said he needed to go walk and clear his head if that was ok I told him it was a free country to knock his socks off and he left and never returned he wouldn’t answer calls or text until the next day and only then was he then willing to contact me but only to demand his car or he would have me locked up for stealing his car lol. So anyway I live in Tennessee he is from south Columbia in the United States on a visitors visa had no driver’s license which I find all this out after calling the police to my garage to have them check the vin on the car to see if it was stolen or if it was up for repo he says he lives in Colorado Springs can I keep the car locked in my garage and demand payment or can I get a mechanics lien title he wants to sale this car to a junk yard today and wants me to put it together enough to roll it outside where someone can come grab the car and he is probably saling the hole car for 200 bucks I’d pay him that much for it if he would let me but he refuses to sale it to me and refuses to pay me says he sorry he just can’t do it and I already knocked 50 percent of the labor off the price to try and just help the guy get back to Colorado
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