A Mechanics Lien is a legal procedure wherein a Contractor or Sub-Contractor can place a lien on a property owner’s real estate when that owner has failed to pay for services or products. It can also be placed on a property owner’s real estate when a General Contractor fails to pay a Sub-Contractor.
A Mechanics Lien can be commenced when a property owner fails to make payment when due. The lien is filed in the Court of Common Pleas of the county in which the non-paying property owner’s property is located.
The lien must set forth the terms of the contract, the amount due, the name of all parties, the date of the breach of the agreement and must also be filed within six (6) months of the time that the work was completed or the product was delivered. The minimum amount for a Mechanic’s Lien is $500.
If a Sub-Contractor wishes to file a Mechanics Lien, he must first give the property owner thirty (30) days formal notice of his intent to do so.
A Mechanics Lien is a powerful weapon that is designed to ensure that those who do work on property are compensated for their time or their products. It is similar to a lawsuit in that it is a legal proceeding, but it is also stronger, at least initially, because it is akin to obtaining a legal judgment right off of the bat. In a normal lawsuit, the Complaint is filed, a hearing is held, and then you obtain your judgment. With a Mechanics Lien, the lien is filed, there is no hearing, and there is an instant mark/lien on the property. Its a very powerful law indeed. The person/company who files the lien must then file a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas within two (2) years or the lien will become void. This means that the contractor must pursue the matter further through court proceedings if the issue is not resolved within that first 2 year period. The contractor does not have to wait the full 2 years to file the complaint, he/she can do so at any time after the lien is filed.
The difficult scenario is one where the General Contractor fails to pay the Sub Contractor. The innocent homeowner, who has paid the General Contractor in full, can be the victim of a Mechanic’s lien if that General does not pay his Subs. This situation arises more often than one would expect, so it is incumbent upon homeowners and property owners to fully vet all Contractors whom they intend to hire to perform work on their property.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding defense of a Mechanics Lien claim. To set up an initial consultation, contact my office at 412-823-8003 or send an email to Attorney Greg Artim