Small Firm, Big Results

How a mechanic’s lien help settle unpaid work

On Behalf of | May 31, 2024 | Construction Disputes |

Imagine completing a kitchen renovation project without receiving compensation for the work. Or supplying steel framing materials to a remodeled unit, but the employers refuse to pay. These circumstances often happen in construction projects.

In the US, a mechanic’s lien provides an unpaid party with a security interest in the title to the real property, which is residential or commercial real estate. If you have unpaid work done or materials supplied, this legal claim can be your tool to collect payment from the property owners or developers.

Who can file a mechanic’s lien?

Anyone who “performs labor or furnishes materials for the improvement of real property” can file a mechanic’s lien if they did not get their well-deserved payment. This includes contractors, subcontractors, laborers, landscape gardeners and nursery workers. However, if the work requires a licensed worker and you do not have a license, you are not eligible for this claim.

Putting a lien on a property in New York

Filing a mechanic’s lien involves the following steps:

  1. Fill out the proper mechanic’s lien form: Use the right lien form. You will need information on the property, including the owner’s name and address, the description and value of your work, how much they owe you and the dates you worked on the property.
  2. Serve a copy of the lien on the property owner: Failing to notify the owner five days before and up to 30 days after filing the notice of lien invalidates your claim.
  3. Record the lien with the county recorder: You must file the lien in the county clerk’s office where the property is located.
  4. File an Affidavit of Service: This proves that you have notified the owner of the lien within 35 days of filing your claim.

You only have four months to file a mechanic’s lien if it is against a single-family dwelling and eight months to file any other privately owned property. The calculations start from the completion or final furnishing date. In New York, a mechanic’s lien remains attached to the property for 1 year from the filing date. Once they pay you, you must complete a release form to cancel the lien.

Maximizing your chances of getting paid

A mechanic’s lien is often very effective at getting your payment for you. For one, the lien attaches against the property, which means the owner cannot sell, refinance or transfer it. This should pressure them to settle their debts to you.

If you believe you delivered what was ordered from you, it is only right for the owners to hold their end of the deal. However, remember that even valid liens are challengeable, so consult with an attorney familiar with New York regulations for more guidance on the process.