Mechanics Lien: Definition
A mechanics or construction lien is a statutory lien created in favor of contractors, laborers and materialmen who have performed work or furnished materials in the construction or repair of a building or other real property. The lien attaches to the real property improved by the labor and / or material. The lien has the effect of encumbering the property, thereby insuring payment for the lien holder’s services, materials or equipment. Many states specifically mention engineers and design professionals as being covered by mechanics liens. Others do not mention them at all. In this summary when design professionals are mentioned as covered by state law it is noted. If it is not noted it does not necessarily mean they are not covered but you should contact local counsel for that information.
Perfecting a lien
It means to satisfy or complete each of the prescribed steps a lien holder must take in order to establish a legally enforceable lien on the property of another. The courts consider a mechanics lien to be a privilege and not a right. You receive its benefits only if you strictly adhere to the state law requirements.
Many states require some kind of notice before a lien can be filed. For purposes of this paper it is referred to as a prelien notice although the name varies from state to state. Many states require such a notice at the beginning of a project so owners and contractors know exactly who is on the site and the extent of potential claims.
A prelien notice although optional in many states is recommended for a number of reasons. Many owners do not know the existence of subs, sub-subs, and suppliers. If the owner knows of your existence, there is a better chance of your being paid. Even more importantly, the owner might well pay you directly to make sure there are no liens. Especially if he or she knows you are unpaid and could be filing a lien. The owner could also make out joint checks to you and the general or otherwise insist on proof that you have been paid before making payment to the general. Finally, the owner may insist of proof you have been paid pursuant to either a Partial or Final Lien Waiver that you are asked to sign.
LIEN LAWS BY STATE
Summary of State Lien Laws
Provided is a brief summary of the lien laws by state. The intent is to give you a general understanding along with some common terms. Most all states have a State Statute which governs the specifics of the law. For complete law in your state, please refer to the Statute or consult an attorney.
Contractors or subs who do not have a direct contract with the owner must file a prelien notice before they can file a lien. There is no time deadline when the prelien notice must be filed other than before a lien is filed. A lien filed by original contractors must be within six months after the last item of work has been furnished. Other parties have four months. Engineers are covered by mechanics lien laws but construction must have started. A release of a lien is by the statute of limitation or through acknowledgement of payment in full. There is no law in Alabama where a party could use a bond to release a lien. Alabama Code 35-11.
A prelien notice is not required but recommended to make enforcement easier. A lien can be filed by any person who furnishes services for the improvement of real property at the request of an owner. Engineers are covered even though actual work may not have begun. If the owner has filed a notice of completion the claimant has 15 days to file. The notice of completion puts potential claimants on notice that the time to file is running. If the owner has not filed a notice of completion the claimant has 90 days after the completion of the construction contract or 90 days after the claimant has ceased to furnish services. A property cannot be bound by lien for more than six months unless legal action has commenced. A bond can be used to release a lien. Alaska Statutes 34.35.
Unlike many states, Arizona requires all claimants’ contractors or subs – to file a prelien notice no later than 20 days commencing services. Any person who furnishes professional services shall have a lien on the building, structure or improvement whether the work was done at the instance of the owner or his agent. Contractors, engineers and architects are considered are considered agents for purposes of Arizona law. The potential claimant must give a preliminary 20 day notice prior to the recording of a mechanics lien. The notice shall be given no later than 20 days after the claimant has first furnished professional services. A payment bond can be in lieu of a lien right. Arizona Revised Statutes Title 33, Chapter 7, Article 6.
A notice of intent to file a lien is required at least 10 days before filing a lien. Arkansas permits anyone who supplies services in the construction of real estate to file a lien including engineers. A party has 120 days from the date services were furnished and must file in the county within which the property is situated. The original contractor may file at any time but other parties must give the owner 10 days notice prior to filing a lien. The lien is valid for 15 months or until a suit is filed. Arkansas requires notice prior to starting work and does permit the use of a bond to release a lien. Arkansas Code Annotated 18-44.
To preserve mechanics lien rights a preliminary notice must be filed within 20 days of the first date of services. A contractor has 90 days after completion of the work or 60 days after a notice of completion has been filed to file. A claimant other than the original contractor has 90 days after he has ceased furnishing services or 30 days after the recording of a notice of completion. A Claim of Lien and a Stop Notice gives a claimant a lien against undisbursed construction funds. A Stop Notice is a verified statement containing the services provided and the amount owed. Design professionals and engineers are entitled to liens in California. California Civil Code, Title 15, Chapters 2-4.
For a claimant to file a lien it first must serve the owner and principal contractor with a notice of intent to file a lien 10 days before the lien statement is filed. The filing of the notice extends the time a claimant may file a lien an additional six months or four months from the completion of the project. A party may not place a lien on property where the contractor and his surety have executed a performance bond. Parties who would be otherwise entitled to a lien may pursue the contractor and his surety. Engineers are entitled to liens. Colorado Revised Statutes 38-22.
A prelien notice is required for those not having a direct contract with the owner anytime before starting the work to 90 days after finishing. No prelien notice is required for those with a direct contract with the owner. The state permits any person with a claim of more than $10 for services rendered in construction to file a mechanics lien. A claimant must file a Certificate of Lien within 90 days of furnishing services and must give a copy to the property owner prior to lodging a certificate but not later than 30 days after lodging the certificate. A perfected lien shall not continue for more than one year or until legal action is commenced. In Connecticut a bond can be used to satisfy a lien. Connecticut General Statutes Title 49 §§ 32-92
No prelien notice is necessary. Delaware permits any person who furnishes labor or material for the erection, alteration, or repair of any structure to obtain a lien. The owner may require the contractor to provide a list of anyone who may be entitled to a lien. Those filing a claim must wait 90 days before he may file a statement of claim and then has 30 days within which to file a claim. Otherwise a claim must be filed no later than 90 days from completion of the work. Delaware Code Title 25, §§2702-2712.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
No prelien notice is necessary. DC Code allows general contractors who have supplied labor or materials for the erection improvement, repair or addition to a building to file a lien within 90 days of either the completion or termination of the work. No time limit for subcontractors. The lien is for the contract price or in the absence of a contract, value of the work. A subcontractor can demand that the owner supply him with a statement detailing the terms of the contract between the owner and the contractor. DC Code § 40-301 -303.
Design professionals are not required to serve a prelien notice. Any architect, engineer or surveyor may have a lien on real property improved for any money that is owed him or her rendered in accordance with their contract regardless whether such real property is actually improved. Filing must occur within 90 days of completing work. Florida Statutes Title 40, Chapter 713
Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors do not have to file a prelien notice. Professional engineers may file a claim within 90 days after completion of the work or furnishing of the services. They must notify the owner by registered or certified mail no later than 2 business days after the claim is filed and notify the superior court in the county in which the lien was filed within 30 days. Georgia Code Title 44 Chapter 14-361.
Engineers are entitled to liens. Unlike most other states before you can file a lien you must get permission of a court. A hearing is then held to determine whether you can move forward with your claim. For a design professional to have a claim some work must be started on the project. If a notice of completion has been filed you have 45 days proceed. If no notice of completion then one year and 45 days.
No prelien notice is required. Every professional engineer or licensed surveyor under contract who prepares or furnishes designs, plans, plats, maps, specifications, drawings, surveys, estimates of cost, on-site observation or supervision, or who renders any other professional service whatsoever for which he is legally authorized to perform in connection with any land or building development or improvement, or to establish boundaries, has a lien upon the same for the work or labor done or professional services furnished. A claim of lien must be files within 90 days after completion of the work or furnishing of the services. Idaho Code § 45-507.
There is a 60 day prelien notice for residential projects; 90 day notice for commercial projects. Any person (including a professional engineer) has a lien on any improved property as of the date of the contract. There are different filing dates on whether you are a contractor (contract directly with owner) or a subcontractor. ..Four months from the last substantial work for a contractor, 90 days for a subcontractor. To enforce a lien a claimant must file suit within two years after the last date of work. No liens are allowed on public projects. 770 Illinois Compiled Statutes 60
Commercial and industrial projects do not require a prelien notice. Those wishing to acquire a lien on property must file in the county where the property is situated and within 90 days after performing the work for commercial, industrial or utility projects. For residential it is 60 days. To enforce the lien a suit must be filed no later than one year after the lien is filed. Engineers are entitled to liens. Indiana Code Title 32, Article 28
Design professionals and engineers are not mentioned in the statutes so it is a gray area whether they are covered or not. For commercial projects Iowa requires a pre-lien notice within 30 days of first providing services. To file a lien a party must file a statement of account within 90 days from the last date services were performed in the district court of the county in which the property is located. An action to enforce a claim must come within two years from the end of the 90 day filing period. This applies only to private sector projects and improvements. Iowa Statutes Chapter 572
No notice prior to commencement of the work is necessary. Engineers can file a lien as long as construction has commenced. If a project is never started a lien is not allowed. The lien must be filed within 4 months after last furnishing services. A subcontractor must file within 3 months. To bring an action in court it must be brought within one year of filing the lien statement. Kansas does permit use of a bond to release a lien. Kansas Statutes Chapter 58-201.
Kentucky requires a Notice of intent to file lien for all those who do not have a direct contract with the owner. A prime contractor is not required to give this notice. This prelien notice is only required for private projects not public. The prelien notice for commercial projects must be filed within 120 days of last furnishing services for projects with over $1000 owed. 75 days for less than $1000 owed. Licensed engineers can file a mechanics lien which must be filed within 6 months of the last furnishing of services on a private sector project and 60 days for public projects. K.R.S.A. § 376.075.
Engineers are covered by mechanics liens but only on private projects. An owner must file a notice of contract signed by him and the general contractor before commencing work. The lien must be filed within 60 days of notice of termination or completion of services. For a subcontractor the time limit is 30 days. An action to enforce a lien must be filed with one year of filing the lien. R.S. 9:4807.
A prelien notice is not required as in some other states. A mechanics lien is not required by anyone with a direct contract with the owner. Others seeking payment must file. The deadline is 120 days within the last work by anyone on the project. Engineers have lien rights. MRSA Title 10 § 3255.
A prelien notice is required of any subcontractor that does not have a direct contract with the owner. It must be filed within 120 days after furnishing services. Others have within 180 days to file. Maryland law is unique in that a judge has to order a lien be place after filing a petition for a lien with the circuit court. A mechanics lien is allowed only if the work on the property increases its value by 15% or more. Maryland Code Annotated, Real Property 9-102.
It is known that currently design professionals are not covered by mechanics lien laws in Massachusetts. Legislation is or will soon be introduced to do so.
For subcontractors a prelien notice must be filed within 20 days of first furnishing services. For others a mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days of last furnishing services. A suit to enforce the lien must be brought no later than one year after a lien is recorded. Mechanics liens have priority over other liens as long as there has been actual physical improvement. M.S.A. § 570.1107
A prelien notice is only required on smaller residential projects. It is not required on construction of 5000 square feet or more. Design professionals must file a lien within 120 days of last furnishing services and only if there has been some actual physical improvement. An enforcement suit must be filed within one year of the last date services were performed. Liens apply only to private projects not public. M.S.A. §514.01
No prelien notices are required. Mechanics lien laws specifically include engineers as long as actual work is underway. A lien must be filed within 12 months from when unpaid fees were due. A Stop Notice for subcontractors is also available to freeze funds the owner may still have. Mississippi Code Title 85 Chapter 7 §131.
A prelien notice is required for subcontractors who do not contract directly with the owner. It must be filed at least 10 days before filing a mechanics lien. The mechanics lien must be filed within 6 months of completion of the work and an enforcement action must be filed within 6 months after that. Mechanics lien laws specifically cover engineers. Liens cover private projects only. M.A.S. § 429.010
A prelien notice is required for anyone who does not contract directly with the owner. There is some confusion on whether a prelien notice is required on commercial projects. To be safe, file one anyway. On commercial property the filing deadline for a prelien is 20 days for commercial property with a construction lender or 45 days without a construction lender. Engineers are specifically included in coverage by mechanics liens. Many states require work to be commenced before the design professional can file a lien but Montana does not. File within 90 days of last furnishing services. MCA 71-3-523.
A prelien notice is required only for residential projects, not commercial or industrial. Engineers are covered by lien laws in Nebraska. In many states design professionals are do not have lien rights unless physical work has commenced. This is not required in Nebraska. A lien must be filed within 120 days of last furnishing services and is only available for private sector projects. Nebraska Revised Statutes Chapter 52 §131.
Nevada has two prelien notices. One is for those working on a project that does not have a direct contract with the owner. The other is for those who do have a contract with the owner but it is only for residential projects. Engineers are covered by mechanics liens but only to the extent that physical construction begins. A lien must be filed within 90 days of the completion of the project or last furnishing services. Any action to enforce a lien must be brought with 6 months after filing. NRS 108.222.
A prelien notice is required for who do not have a direct contract with the owner. It can be served at any time. Research indicates that engineers probably have lien rights as long as work has begun on the project. A lien must be filed within 120 days of last furnishing services. Unlike most states you must get a court order before a lien can be filed. Liens apply only to private sector projects. New Hampshire Statutes Title 41 Chapter 447 §2
No prelien notice except for residential products. Engineers are included in lien rights. A written contract is mandatory in order to have lien rights. A lien must be filed within 90 days of having last furnished services. A lawsuit to foreclose a lien must be filed within one year of the completion of your work. N.J.S.2A:44A-6.
A prelien notice is not required of anyone who has a direct contract with the owner. For those who do not have a direct contract notice is required with 60 days of first furnishing services. A mechanics lien covers design professionals as long as the plans are used for actual construction. A lien must be filed within 120 days of completion of services for a general contractor and within 90 days for a subcontractor. NMSA §48-2
No prelien notices are required. Mechanics liens can be filed on private and public projects except for those federally funded. The deadline for filing is within 8 months of completion of the project. New York Lien Law §§3-10.
North Carolina has one of the more complex lien laws. Please proceed carefully if you decide to file a lien. Engineers are specifically covered by North Carolina lien laws. There are 3 tiers of subcontractors and the requirements are different for each. The deadline for filing is 120 days from last furnishing services. The deadline for filing a lawsuit to foreclose a lien is 180 days after the last labor is finished on the project. Liens are only good against private projects not public. North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 44A Article 2
A prelien notice is required whether there is a direct contract with the owner or not. It must be filed within 75 days of last furnishing services and at least 15 days before filing a mechanics lien. Engineers are specifically covered by the mechanics lien law and have 90 days from the last furnishing of services to file. It is only for private projects not public. North Dakota Century Code Title 35-27-01
A prelien notice is required of those who do not have a direct contract with the owner. Ohio also requires a Notice of Commencement on a project that affects the prelien notice. If, for some reason a NofC has not been filed then a prelien notice is not required. The prelien notice should be filed within 21 days of beginning services. Mechanics liens need to be filed within 75 days of last furnishing services for commercial projects. The time frame is different for other types of projects. O.R.C. 1311.06(B)
A prelien notice is required for commercial and industrial projects for those who do not have a direct contract with the owner. The deadline is no later than 75 days after furnishing services. Engineers are specifically covered by Oklahoma’s mechanics lien laws. Deadline for filing is within 90 days of last furnishing services for those who do not have a direct contract with the owner. If there is a direct contract the deadline is four months after last furnishing services. Private projects are subject to liens, public are not. Oklahoma Statutes Title 42
No prelien notice is required on commercial or industrial projects. It is required on residential projects. Engineers are specifically covered under Oregon mechanics lien laws. The deadline is within 75 days of last furnishing services. After that you have 120 days to file a lawsuit to enforce the lien. Liens are allowed only for private projects not public. ORS 87.010
A prelien notice is not necessary if there is a direct contract with the owner. Design professionals are entitled to a lien if they have a direct contract with the owner and also provide additional services such as construction administration. It must be filed within six months of furnishing services. To enforce a lien a suit must be filed within two years after filing. 49 Pa C.S.A. 1101
In RI the prelien and lien notices are one and the same. A Notice of Intention to do work is served to the owner and if no payment if forthcoming the same notice is filed for recording and becomes a lien. Design professionals’ time period for serving a notice of intention is different than contractors. It is within 200 days of performance of the work or 10 days after commencement of the work. It applies only to private projects not public. Rhode Island General Laws Chapter 34-28-7
A prelien notice is not required but recommended. Mechanics lien laws cover design professionals. The time frame for filing a lien is within 90 days of last furnishing services, and a lawsuit to foreclose the lien must be filed within 6 months of last furnishing services. It is only for private sector projects. South Carolina Code of Laws Title 29, Chapter 5-10
A prelien notice is required only if the prime contractor has recorded a Notice of Project Commencement. Then the prelien notice must be filed within 60 days after last furnishing services. Design professionals are not specifically mentioned as being covered by mechanics lien laws but it applies to a wide range of firms that supply construction related services. The deadline for filing a mechanics lien is 120 day after the last furnishing of services. Private projects only. South Dakota Codified Laws Chapter 44-9
A prelien notice is required for anyone without a direct contract with the owner. It must be filed within 90 days of the end of the month when unpaid services were provided and must be filed each month in which there is non-payment. Engineers are covered by Tennessee’s mechanics lien laws for commercial and industrial projects. General contractors have one year to bring a suit to enforce their lien rights. Subcontractors have 90 days from last furnishing services or completion of the project to file a lien. Private projects are covered by lien laws not public. Tennessee Code 66-11
For commercial projects those with a direct contract with the owner file a Notice of intention to file a lien, the recommended time limit is within 30 days of your final invoice. To file a mechanics lien, file by the 15th of the third month following completion of the project. To file a lawsuit to foreclose a lien, file within 1 year from the deadline to file a lien or completion of the project. For subcontractors without a direct contract with the owner liens can still be filed with slightly different rules. Design professionals are covered by the Texas lien laws. Texas Statutes 53-021
A prelien notice is not required for residential and commercial projects for those who have a direct contract with the owner. It is required only if the original contractor or building inspection department has electronically filed a Notice of Commencement. A mechanics lien can be filed against commercial or residential property. The law includes design professionals. Many states require ground be broken before a design professional can file a lien, not so in Utah. The deadline for filing a lien is 180 days after the completion of the project. Liens allowed on private projects only. Utah Code Title 38-1-3
There are no prelien requirements. A mechanics lien must be filed within 180 days after furnishing the work. A lawsuit to foreclose a lien must be filed within 180 days of recording a mechanics lien. There is some question whether design professionals are covered by the lien laws. Check with local counsel. Vermont Statutes Title 9 -1921
Prelien notices are only required for residential projects. Mechanics lien cover engineers in Virginia. The deadline is 90 days from the end of the month in which services were last performed or the project ended whichever is earlier. To foreclose a lien a suit must be brought no later than 6 months after the lien was recorded. The lien is only for private projects not public. Code of Virginia Title 43 Chapter 1
A prelien notice is required by the general contractor and subcontractors although requirements are different for both. No time limit on filing. Design professionals should file a Notice of Furnishing Professional Services. Engineers are covered by Washington’s mechanics lien laws. The deadline is 90 days from the last furnishing of services. Liens do not apply to public projects. To foreclose a lien a suit must be filed within 8 months after the lien was filed for recording. Revised Code of Washington 60.04.021
A prelien notice may be used by those who do not have a direct contract with the owner, West Virginias mechanics lien laws cover design professionals. The deadline is within 100 days of last furnishing services. The deadline to foreclose a loan with a lawsuit is 6 months after the lien was filed and recorded. Private projects only are covered. West Virginia Code § 38-2-1
For projects other than residential a prelien notice is required at least 30 days before the deadline of filing a mechanics lien. A mechanics lien must be filed no later than 6 months after last furnishing services. Engineers are covered by Wisconsin lien laws. Private projects only are covered. To foreclose a lien a suit must be filed within 2 years after filing the mechanics lien. Wisconsin Statutes 779.01
A prelien notice is required only for residential construction. Engineers are covered by Wyoming’s lien laws. A lien must be filed within 120 days of last furnishing services for a general contractor, within 90 days for a subcontractor. A lawsuit to foreclose a lien must be filed within 180 days after filing the mechanics lien. Private projects only are covered. Wyoming Statutes Title 29 Chapter 1 Article 2
The information presented on this page is intended for reference only. It does not portend to be legal advice but only a starting point for gathering the full amount of information needed. It is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.