Short Answer: The law varies from state-to-state on this point. The law is virtually identical in every state if you are supplying materials or providing labor to construct, repair, renovate or improve some type of building; in these circumstances, you can file a lien. However, when you are providing professional services (architect, engineer, interior design, landscaping), working on non-buildings (clearing areas, under-ground work), or leasing construction equipment, the answer can be more tricky.
Long Answer: When examining whether certain work qualifies for mechanic lien protection, it’s useful to look at the underlying purpose for mechanic lien laws. A few months ago, we wrote a post about the History of the Mechanic’s Lien, and it’s actually relevant to this discussion. If you know why mechanic lien laws exist, you should be able to apply this purpose to the work you are performing, and make a snap judgment about your lien rights (although, admittedly, the laws can be quirky and this doesn’t always work).
It’s impossible to address every work-type and every state’s laws in a short blog post like this one. However, we can provide some resources when these general questions have been addressed on our blog and on other construction law and lien blogs:
If you’re performing a maybe work-type where the law varies from state-to-state, you may need to consult with an attorney to figure out whether you have the right to file a lien. Since lien periods can come and go so quickly, you want to get this question answered as quickly as possible.
Some resources that may help include Avvo.com, which is a lawyer directory where you can ask construction attorneys your legal questions for free, or the Lien Law page on Zlien’s website, which has lien law details about each state.