I don’t have a contract. Can I file a lien in Tennessee without a contract?
Dec 27, 2018
Great question. I know you discussed this issue with Nate earlier on legal chat - but let's go ahead and discuss it further since there's more time to take an in-depth look. In order to file a mechanics lien, some form of agreement between the parties must be present since lien rights will only exist for work that was authorized to be performed on the property. However, this "contract" might take many forms - including written, verbal, and even implied contracts. So let's look at whether a mechanics lien can be filed based on something other than a written contract. Under § 66-11-102(a) of the Tennessee lien statute, a mechanics lien "shall secure the contract price" for the work performed. Now, this section, by itself, does not specifically set out whether that contract must be in writing. But, based on other sections of the statute, it can be concluded that Tennessee contracts need not be in writing in order to give rise to lien rights. This is based on the statute referencing to both a "contract" and a "written contract" at several points (thus, if liens were only available for written contracts, the statute likely would have said so). The Tennessee mechanics lien statute makes it even clearer than that, though. Under § 66-11-101, a "contract" is defined as "an agreement for improving real property, written or unwritten, express or implied, and includes extras as defined in this section..." On that chat, you'd mentioned working on residential jobs as well. It's worth noting that a "Home Improvement Contract" must be in writing. Of course, under § 62-6-501 of the Tennessee Professions, Businesses and Trades code, a Home Improvement Contract refers only to the contract between the owner and their prime contractor for the improvement of the property. So subs hired by the prime contractor are not bound by that requirement. For more background on Tennessee lien law, this resource should be helpful: Tennessee Lien & Notice FAQs.