Do I have lien rights in Arizona? I was left unpaid after providing labor and materials.

8 months ago

On October 1, 2019, I rented the back half of a rental in Phoenix, AZ. On first look, the unit was basically an Arizona room with one end walled off and then that split for a bedroom and future bath. What I thought was the owner, was the renter wanting to sub ease to help make his rent (this I found out after a couple of months) the bath was to be completed which it wasn’t. After a couple of weeks of nothing happening, I asked if he needed help. (I’m a retired general contractor in AZ). He agreed, he would buy the material, I would provide tools and labor to build the bath. I do a little demo work and ask about the material and he states he is a little tight on money, if I could pick it up this month, we would settle at next rent. So I buy lumber, plumbing parts, etc. Come the end of the month, he’ still broke, it carries over to next month and next. Finally, I confronted him on January 1 and he evicts me. Do I have any lien rights?

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
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Generally, mechanics lien rights are available for situations where payment was expected for work performed, but where payment wasn’t made in accordance with the agreement for work. So, in a situation where payment was never actually going to change hands, a lien claim might not necessarily be the best option for recovery. Though, if the property was improved as a result of the work, it’s possible a lien claim might be made.

Notably, though, liens for improvements that were authorized by a tenant, rather than the property owner, will typically be limited to the tenant’s interest in the property. Though, if the owner authorized the tenant’s improvement to the property, it’s possible that a mechanics lien might be available against the owner’s fee interest in the property, as well. Further discussion on that here: Are there lien rights in Arizona when work is initiated by a tenant?

Notice is required to preserve the right to file an Arizona mechanics lien

With all of the above being said, keep in mind that Arizona has strict notice requirements. If a prospective lien claimant doesn’t send a preliminary notice on the job, then they will not be able to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien claim. So, even in a situation where lien rights might be available, if notice wasn’t properly sent, then a claimant won’t be able to proceed with a lien claim.

Further discussion on Arizona’s preliminary notice requirements here: Arizona Preliminary Notice Guide and FAQs.

Other recovery tools could be available

Depending on what kind of resolution you’re looking for, other options might be more fruitful to recover payment for the work you’ve performed. And, seeking the help of a local Arizona construction or housing attorney could be helpful on that front. They’ll be more familiar with available remedies, plus they may be able to review some relevant documentation or circumstances that will play into the potential for recovery.

A very simple step toward making things right might be to simply notify the property owner of everything that’s happened at their property. If they’re fully aware of the situation, they might be willing to step in and resolve the matter.

In the meantime, regarding the eviction, this article might help: Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Arizona.

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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