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Lien rights as an consultant / blueprints

MinnesotaLien DeadlinesRight to Lien

My company was hired by an architect to consult on blueprints and bid documents for a sprinkler system. At this time we have not completed the work due to no payment received. As a consultant do we have any lien rights on the project? What would need to be done or verified to show the work completed to allow lien rights? What is the time frame to file a lien if we due have rights as a consultant? If you need an additional detail please feel free to contact me directly.

3 replies

Sep 28, 2018
These are great questions. While consulting is not the type of work typically associated with mechanics lien rights, whether lien rights are available will come down to the state where the work was performed and the specific work that was provided. In Minnesota, lien rights are pretty broadly granted. They're available to "Whoever performs engineering or land surveying services with respect to real estate, or contributes to the improvement of real estate by performing labor, or furnishing skill, material or machinery for any of the purposes hereinafter stated, whether under contract with the owner of such real estate or at the instance of any agent, trustee, contractor or subcontractor of such owner..." While "consulting" might not be explicitly provided for, if that work falls into any of the description above, it could give rise to lien rights. But there's another important factor to look at - whether the property was actually improved. If the property has not actually been improved by the work provided, lien rights will not arise (and some other method of recovery would likely be more appropriate). Another very important consideration is preliminary notice (also known as "pre-lien" notice). In Minnesota, as well as most other states, a claimant must provide notice at the start of the project in order to preserve their right to lien. Minnesota requires that potential lien claimants provide this preliminary notice, but there are also a great number of exceptions to the notice rules. We discuss them in depth here: Minnesota Pre-Lien Notice Requirements and Exceptions. It's worth noting, though, that the threat of filing a lien, regardless of whether lien rights are available, goes a long way toward compelling payment. Sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien serves as a warning - it states that, if payment isn't made, a lien will be filed. Considering the drastic nature of mechanics liens, the threat of lien is not taken lightly. Finally, let's talk about the deadline. In Minnesota, a mechanics lien statement must be recorded and served on the property owner within 120 days after the date the lien claimant last furnished labor or materials to the project. Note that this last furnishing date does not take into account work that is nominal or insignificant in amount, and if work is provided for the sole purpose of extending the time to file a lien, it will be disregarded. If you have further questions regarding Minnesota's lien and notice requirements, feel free to post another question here or to take a look at our Minnesota Lien and Notice FAQs.
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Dec 9, 2019
I consulted with a General Contractor on a residential custom home. I was responsible for assisting the client with selections for there home. I completed work in August and September of 2019. The General Contractor agreed to pay me and said he was waiting on the draw payments to come in. I have spoke with him several times and he keeps saying he will pay me as soon as he gets the money. Can I file a lien against the property that is still under construction?
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Dec 9, 2019
Mechanics liens can be filed even when the property is still under construction, in most situations. However, it'd also be worth looking into whether the work was lienable to begin with. Generally, mechanics liens are available to those who have performed contruction-related work that permanently improves the project property. Often, there must be some physical component to this - those who provide consulting efforts, without more, won't be entitled to lien. In fact, Minnesota seems to be pretty strict about whether work performed has provided a permanent improvement, as discussed in this article: Installing Speakers, Movie Screens, Lenses Not Enough for Minnesota Mechanics Lien Rights. Of course, that doesn't mane that some other recovery option won't be available or successful. There are often a number of other recovery options that are available when a lien filing might be in the grey area, such as invoice reminders, demand letters, and potentially even a Notice of Intent to Lien. And, if necessary, legal options like breach of contract, prompt payment claims, or unjust enrichment could be on the table, too.
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