DC Mechanic’s Lien Filing
Antonoplos & Associates construction law attorneys regularly represent clients in DC mechanic’s lien claims and payment bond claims. A Mechanic’s Lien is a security interest in the title of real or personal property placed by those who supplied the materials or provided the labor to improve the property. A “mechanic lien” is not necessarily the modern interpretation of someone who repairs machinery, but actually describes a person or company that provides the labor or materials for the improvement of property – thus, the tool is called a Mechanic’s Lien. 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. Mechanic’s Liens are governed by the various state laws and interpretations. Antonoplos & Associates represents client regarding mechanics liens in the District of Columbia, State of Maryland and Common Wealth of Virginia. For more information on filing a mechanic’s lien contact Antonoplos & Associates at 202-803-5676.
District of Columbia Mechanic’s Lien’s
Put simply, a mechanics’ lien makes the property owner responsible for the unpaid debt owed to the contractor, worker, subcontractor, equipment provider or supplier for work done in connection with their property. If the mechanics’ lien is timely recorded according the timeframes set out our jurisdictional chart, and if the owner of the property still doesn’t satisfy the debt owed to the contractor, and if the contractor has timely filed suit within the applicable timeframe of recording the lien, the contractor can seek a court judgment on the lien and order a foreclosure sale of the property so the debt can be paid from proceeds of the sale the real property.
In addition, the contractor is generally also entitled to court costs and interest and may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees.
Mechanic’s liens are an excellent tool for contractors, subcontractors, design professionals, vendors, equipment providers and/or supplier to use when a bill remains unpaid. Until the lien on the property is satisfied, it can affect the property adversely, preventing the property owner from selling the property and may even result in foreclosure of the lien and sale of the property.
Maryland Mechanic’s Lien
Maryland law gives “artisans,” including laborers, mechanics, repairpersons, tradespersons, dry cleaners, and launderers, as well as contractors and subcontractors, a lien on property they build, repair or clean, to help ensure they get paid for their work. If the owner of the property fails to timely pay the worker, the law allows the worker to enforce the lien by selling the property and keeping the proceeds necessary to make up for any payment shortfall. If the sale proceeds exceed the amount owed to the worker, then the owner may keep the remainder.
As soon as an artisan performs work on someone else’s property, Maryland law automatically creates a lien on the property for the benefit of the artisan. The law also allows an artisan to retain property he has created for someone else until he has been paid in full. If the owner does not pay the artisan the full value of the artisan’s work within 90 days, then the artisan can sell the property and keep the proceeds up to the amount owed, plus the cost of the sale. Any remaining proceeds must be paid to the owner. The lien continues until the debt has been satisfied.
Before selling or disposing of a customer’s property, an artisan must give the customer at least 30 days notice, by mailing the notice to the owner at the owner’s last known address. If the artisan does not know the owner’s address, then the artisan may give notice by:
- Posting it on the door of the courthouse or on a bulletin board in the immediate vicinity of the door of the courthouse of the county in which the work was done;
- Publishing it once a week for two successive weeks in one or more newspapers of general circulation in the county in which the work was done; OR
- BOTH Posting it at the artisan’s place of business in a plain and prominent manner, on a sign that is clearly visible and states that the goods may be sold on or after 90 days from the day the work is completed AND printing the notice on the receipt or invoice given to the owner or the owner’s agent.
Special Note for Dry Cleaners and Launderers
Dry cleaners and launderers also may throw away any clothing that a customer fails to pick up for over 6 months. Dry cleaners and launderers must – post a sign in their shop warning customers that clothing left for 6 months will be thrown away.
A mechanics’ lien is a way for contractors and subcontractors who supply labor or materials for construction to get paid for their work. Using a mechanics’ lien, a contractor or subcontractor who has performed work on a property can sell property in order to recover any amount owed but not paid by a customer.
The law automatically gives a contractor or subcontractor a mechanics’ lien on new buildings and some older buildings on which they perform work that increases the building’s value. To establish a lien on an older building, the artisan must increase the building’s value by at least 15%. A tenant may also establish a lien on a building in which she lives, but only if she performs work that increases the building’s value by at least 25%. Under the law, a building includes separately leased units of nonresidential structures. Several types of work result in the automatic statutory creation of a mechanics’ lien, including landscaping, digging a well, constructing a pool or fence, and leasing equipment for use on the property. A contractor or subcontractor can establish a lien for the value of unfinished, as well as finished, projects.
Normally, a building owner is not required to pay a subcontractor directly, because there is no contract between the owner and the subcontractor. A mechanics’ lien allows a subcontractor to recover amounts owed but not paid by the owner to the subcontractor. In order for a lien to arise in favor of a subcontractor, there must be a contract between a contractor and the owner on which the subcontractor works, and between the contractor and the subcontractor. The contract can be any agreement for goods or services, and it need not be written down.
When Mechanics’ Liens Do Not Arise
Mechanics’ liens do not arise for work on public buildings. Also, if a worker purchases land or a building before a lien on the property is established, then no lien will arise even if the worker provides services that increase the property’s value.