What Is a Mechanic’s Lien and How Does It Work?

At a time when families are moving to areas like western Connecticut as a reaction to the impact of COVID, and undertaking renovations and improvements to properties, a legal vehicle known as a mechanic’s lien is likely to become more prominent.

A mechanic’s lien is a way for someone who has done improvements to real property and land—such as a kitchen remodel, bathroom renovation, or deck and patio construction—to secure their claim for unpaid services or materials.

Essentially if a property owner hasn’t paid a contractor, subcontractor, materials supplier or other professionals involved in a project—such as an architect or engineer—they can file a mechanic’s lien, provided the professional’s work has been incorporated into the property.

In Connecticut, mechanic’s liens are authorized by state statute. As the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries’ Guide to Mechanic’s Liens explains:

“Our Supreme Court has noted that ‘the important purpose of mechanic’s lien statutes [is] to provide an inexpensive and simple method for material suppliers and contractors to secure the value of the services or materials that they have added to the property [which is subject to the mechanic’s lien].’”

A mechanic’s lien is served on the owner of a property, effectively places a legal hold on the property—which can’t be easily sold while under a mechanic’s lien—and securitizes the claim for uncompensated improvements to the property.

Mechanic’s liens are recorded in the land records in the municipality in which the property is located and where work was done.

The issues involved with mechanic’s liens can get complicated in many ways.

For example, if a contractor who has remodeled a kitchen has not paid a subcontractor, or the supplier of materials for the remodel, either or both can file a mechanic’s lien against the property owner. If the owner has paid the general contractor in full for the project, however, the subcontractor’s or supplier’s lien would be dischargeable. This is because the owner has paid in full and the subcontractor’s or suppliers recourse is against the general contractor, not the property or the owner.

Mechanic’s liens in Connecticut must be served on the property owner and recorded on land records within 90 days of the last date substantial work was done.

Once a mechanic’s lien is recorded on the land records, it starts a one year clock to foreclose the lien. If no action is commenced within one year, the lien is dissolved by operation of law.

Another of the many complications for those who might be in a position to file a mechanic’s lien involves issues related to priority, in order words the professional’s place in line.

Meanwhile, property owners who are seeking to avoid or “bond off” mechanic’s liens also have many options and tools available for addressing the legal issues they’re facing in the optimal way.

Cramer & Anderson’s attorneys who practice Litigation and Real Estate Law have decades of experience in overseeing the placement and execution of mechanic’s liens, as well as representing those who face such liens.

Get in touch to learn more.