How To File A Lien In Plain English

How To File A Lien In Plain EnglishIt’s interesting that in the mechanics lien world, one of the most popular searches is simply “How to file a lien?” Folks out there aren’t necessarily confused about what the mechanics lien instrument is or how it can be useful to a construction company or material supply company…they simply don’t know how to file it. Practically speaking, how do you file a lien?

I thought it would be a good idea to give you a plain English guide on how to file a lien. So, I will keep the steps pithy and pointed. Here goes:

I. How To File A Lien Step One: Get The Form

Let me tell you something: Forms are overrated. You don’t actually need a specific form to file a mechanics lien…you really just need all the information required by the statute. But, to keep things simple, find yourself a good reputable place that has lien forms.

You want to find a website or vendor with different forms for each state. You cannot use a single lien form for every state and every situation. I’d also advise against paying for lien forms.  We live in the free economy and there’s plenty of websites offering quality lien forms for free.  A great place for free lien forms is the Zlien website, which has a 50-state Mechanics lien forms database.

II. Know The Property Information

You can’t file a mechanics lien against a piece of property if you don’t know who owns it or the legal property description. There are very few exceptions to this statement. Therefore, when filling out your form, know that you need to find these two pieces of information (and you need to be confident in your research).

You can find a property’s legal property description and current owner by going to the mortgage records office in the county where the property is situated. There are also a few online services that will do research for you, but for a fee of usually between $30-75.

III. File The Mechanics Lien With The County Recorder

Every county in every state has an office who is responsible for property records. You’ll need to file your mechanics lien in the county property records for the county where the project’s property is located. Look up the county recorder’s office online and give them a call.  You need to ask a few key questions:

  1. What is the filing fee (send the exact fee)?
  2. Are there any paper margin requirements (file them)?
  3. Where to send the lien for filing (be careful about mailing to busy counties)?
  4. How many copies do you need to send?

IV. Serve The Mechanics Lien

The last step in filing a mechanics lien is to serve the lien on the property owner. Most states require you send the lien out for service within just 3-7 days of the filing, and so it’s important to act fast. Service in some states (like Pennsylvania) must be performed by a county sheriff. However, most states allow mechanics liens to be served by certified mail, with return receipt requested.

Make sure you know how your state requires service, and get it done fast.

V.  Or….Use A Mechanics Lien Filing Service

How to file a lien?  This is a really difficult question to answer in a single post…or, as I’ve demonstrated over the past five years, in a single blog. There are a lot of nuances in preparing and filing a mechanics lien, and a lot of steps. Not only do you have the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes when you prepare and file your mechanics lien claim yourself, but you also have the opportunity to spend a lot of unnecessary time on the task. Searching for an answer to the “how to file a lien” question is a true undertaking.

If you’re reading this article because you wonder how to file a lien, you might want to consider the easiest way to file a mechanics lien: outsource it. Filing a mechanics lien with Zlien (a mechanics lien filing service) can be arranged in just a few minutes, by filing out the mechanics lien order form on their website. They take care of all the research, filing and service work for you, all for a low flat fee.

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Scott Wolfe Jr

About Scott Wolfe Jr

Scott Wolfe Jr. is the CEO of zlien, a company that provides software and services to help building material supply and construction companies reduce their credit risk and default receivables through the management of mechanics lien and bond claim compliance. He is also the founding author of The Lien and Credit Journal, a leading online publication about liens, security instruments and getting paid on every account. Scott is a licensed attorney in six states with extensive experience in corporate credit management and collections law, with a specific emphasis on utilizing mechanic liens, UCC filings and other security instruments to protect and manage receivables. You can connect with him via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.