Mechanic's Lien Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Mechanic's Lien, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Mechanic's Lien?

(n) Mechanic’s lien is the right of the contractor, craftsman, architect etc to have a lien on the property or materials connected to the work lying with him, to use them to recover the payment for his services.

History and Meaning of Mechanic's Lien

A mechanic's lien is a legal tool used by contractors, construction workers, and suppliers to recover the payments owed to them for work completed on a property. The concept of mechanic's liens has its origins in English common law, and was first introduced in the United States in the 1800s as a way to protect workers who were often not paid until a project was completed. In most states, mechanic's liens are statutory in nature, which means they are defined by state law.

A mechanic's lien provides a security interest in a property which serves as collateral for the unpaid debt. This means that if payments are not made for the work done, the lien holder can take legal action to force the sale of the property or foreclose on the lien. Typically, a mechanic's lien must be filed within a certain time period after work is completed, typically ranging from 30 to 120 days.

Examples of Mechanic's Lien

  1. A contractor who has completed work on a house but has not received payment can file a mechanic's lien against the property to force the homeowner to pay.
  2. A supplier who has delivered materials to a construction site but has not been paid can file a mechanic's lien against the property to recover their costs.
  3. A subcontractor who has not received payment from the general contractor can file a mechanic's lien against the property to recover their share of the funds.

Legal Terms Similar to Mechanic's Lien

  1. Notice of Commencement - A legal document filed at the beginning of a construction project that provides information about the property and the work to be done.
  2. Stop Notice - A legal tool used by contractors and suppliers to halt work on a property if they are not being paid.
  3. Lien Release - A document releasing a lien on a property once the debt has been paid in full.