What is a Mechanics Lien

Legal Article

What is a Mechanics Lien

What is a Mechanic’s Lien

A mechanic’s lien is a security interest in the title of real property placed by those who supplied the materials or provided the labor to build or improve the property. This particular remedy is typically used by contractors and subcontractors as a defense against the nonpayment or the imperfection of tender for a construction contract. Furthermore, mechanics liens law is governed by various state laws and interpretations. This guide will provide an overview of what you need to do in order to file a mechanics lien, where and how to file a mechanics lien, and finally what options are available to you once you file a mechanics lien in the District of Columbia.

Mechanic’s Lien in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, only those parties contracting with the property owner or main contractor can file a mechanics lien. As such, sub-subcontractors do not have the legal right to file a DC mechanics lien. Additionally, DC law is not clear on if architects are able to bring forth a mechanics lien claim. In the District of Columbia, you must file a mechanics lien within 90 days after the termination or completion of the project—whichever is earlier. Furthermore, once the claim is filed, the lien claimant must initiate actions within 180 days of filing the mechanic lien. If your business was contracted to either supply the labor or materials for a real property construction project and this project ended less than 90 days ago, there are a few more important things you should know before filing your mechanics lien claim.

Information Necessary to File a Mechanics Lien

If you are a party that can file a mechanics lien claim in DC, you must include a list of information regarding, yourself, the property owner, and the property.

  1. First, you need to include your contact information along with your business’s full registered name and the type of business (i.e. Inc, LLC).
  2. Second, you must provide the property owner’s contact information. If there are joint property owners, you must include the contact information for each owner.
  3. Next, include the general contractor’s information. In many contracts, the general contractor’s information may be left out. If this occurred in your situation, simply request the general contractor’s information directly.
  4. Fourth, you must state the amount claimed. The amount claimed is the total amount due under the contract. When deciding the amount claimed, take the project’s price and then subtract any payments that have already been made.
  5. Fifth, attach a legal description of the property. If a description of the property is not included in the contract, you can this information at the DC tax assessor’s office.
  6. Sixth, create a brief description of labor and the materials used in the project. Additionally, you must include the start and end date of the job. If the job is not completed yet, provide an estimated end date.
  7. Next, you must attach a photocopy of your contract license and certificate of good standing. If your business is situated in DC, your certificate must be from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
  8. One additional provision that is specific to DC is that you must include a copy of a home improvement contract if you are working on an existing residential property.
  9. Finally, you must sign and date the mechanic’s lien in front of a public notary.

Where to File Your District of Columbia Mechanics Lien

After filling out your mechanic’s lien, call the DC Office of the Recorder of Deeds- Land Records Division at (202) 727-5374. By calling the office, you can double-check that you have all the necessary documents before formally filing the claim. Currently, there are three ways to file a DC mechanics lien—in-person, by mail, or electronic filing.

If you decide to file your DC mechanics lien in-person, the address for the Office of the Recorder of Deeds- Land Records. The organization’s address is 1101 4th Street, SW, 5th Floor Washington, DC 20024. There are two main benefits of filing in-person. First, if there are any issues with your documents, you are able to resolve them immediately. Second, by going in-person, you are ensuring that your documents will be filed that day. This is important if you are close to 90 days after the project is completed.

You can file your DC mechanics lien by mail at the Office of the Recorder of Deeds- Land Records. One tip if you file by mail is to ensure that you give yourself plenty of time. This protects against delays in mailing time so the office can file your claim in plenty of time.

Finally, you can file your DC mechanics lien electronically. This form of filing is convenient, yet you must register with a third-party E-recording vender before you file. Furthermore, you must ensure that you format the documents properly and have an acceptable resolution. Like filing in-person, electronically submitting your claim ensures that recorder of deeds will file the claim that same day.

What to do After Filing a District of Columbia Mechanics Lien

Once you have filed your DC mechanics lien, you must send a copy of the claim to the property owner. Furthermore, you must do so by certified mail within 5 business days of filing the claim. If you send a copy of the claim to the owner’s address yet the letter returns in the mail, you can post a copy of the claim at the job site. In DC, you must post the claim at a place that is generally visible from the entry point.

Your mechanics lien only lasts for 180 days after the recording of the claim. Because of this, you must either enforce or release the lien before this period has passed.

Enforce Your DC Mechanics Lien

In order to implement your action to enforce, you must file this lawsuit within 180 days after recording the claim. Additionally, you must file a notice of pendency of action with the recorder’s office. You must do this within 10 days of filing the action to enforce. If you must enforce your DC mechanics lien, you should understand that this is a full lawsuit. As such, if you do choose to enforce the mechanic’s lien, make sure that you consult a DC construction law attorney so they can review your documents and prepare for your case.

If you are not ready to bring forth a lawsuit, you can instead send a notice of intent to foreclose. This document is simply a letter stating that if you do not receive full payment within a certain timeframe, you will foreclose on the property. While not required, this letter is typically enough to get property owners to pay the contract.

Release Your DC Mechanics Lien

If you have been paid by the property owner, you are not finished with the claim as the mechanic’s lien will stay on the title until formally removed. In most cases, a property owner agrees to pay the remaining balance of the contract on the condition that the lien will come off the property. In DC, whenever the contractor pays the lienholder’s claim, the property owner can demand that the claim be removed from the property. Thus, if the contractor refuses or fails to remove the lien from the property, the contractor will be penalized $50. Additionally, any damages that occur because the claim is still on the property will transfer to the claimant.

How a DC Mechanics Lien Lawyer Can Help

As stated, if you choose to enforce your DC mechanics lien, you will be initiating a full lawsuit. As such, hiring a construction attorney to represent you is essential to not only your success in court. A DC construction lawyer will also be able to help create a legal description of the property, file the lien, send out required notices, deal with responses from the property owner, collect the judgment, and finally release the lien. Antonoplos & Associates group of attorneys have over 20 years of experience guiding DC construction contractors through the mechanic’s lien process. As such, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience required to deal with a variety of issues that may occur during the mechanic’s lien process.

Contact our Law Office for More Information

For more information on DC mechanics lien, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.