4 Tips Before Filing a Mechanic’s Lien

April 5, 2023by Jeffrey Davis
A mentor once told me “anytime I’m asked to file a lien for a client the first thing I do is break out in a cold sweat”. A little dramatic? Well, not necessarily. There are many nuances to filing a lien. Here are 4 key things to look for when preparing a mechanic’s lien.
  1. First, you have to make sure you named all the correct and proper parties in your lien. This always requires some additional research into the proper legal name of the entity or individuals who own the property you are seeking to lien against.  Therefore you certainly want to consider reviewing the New York Department of State website, ACRIS, and you should probably order a title search as well if you are going to be extra prudent.  Failing to name the correct parties in your lien could be devastating to your claim.
  2. Second, you should evaluate whether you have a right to even file the lien against the party in question. For instance, you may not be able to file a lien against a tenant (i.e. a non-owner) unless the owner had actual knowledge of the work you were performing at that property. This is a fact sensitive inquiry and may require review of things such as the lease/commercial lease.
  3. Third, you should determine whether your work is the type of work contemplated under the lien law. For instance, the installation of networking capabilities in an office building may not be considered lienable work because it may not be considered the type of “permanent improvement” contemplated under the lien law.
  4. Fourth, you should also consider in great detail the amount claimed under your proposed lien. Overstating your lien could subject you to a counter claim for a willfully exaggerated lien which could expose you to liability.  Prior to filing a lien you may want to consider an informal accounting.  This would entail creating a functional spread sheet breaking down your claim into dates of service, invoices, dates of invoices, and dates of any claims extra work. You should also gather all signed contracts and correspondence pertaining to completed work, resolved issues, and authorization to perform additional work.
In sum, before filing your lien you should review your claim with a skilled attorney so you can ensure that upon demand (or in response to a demand for a verified statement) you can easily and readily substantiate your position. Finally, remember that timing is everything. Just because you file a lien within the time period under the lien law statute doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily preserved your claim. The contract between you (the contractor) and the owner may impose additional limitations to commencing a lawsuit which in turn might effect the time period to foreclose (enforce) your lien. Again, review of the contract documents by an attorney is always a wise investment.