How does a mechanic’s lien work?

If you have hired an outside party to do work on your home or on your property, a payment plan might be the last thing you think about. However, getting work done from an artisan can end up seeming like taking out another line of credit. If you can’t pay the outside party for his/her work, not only are you in debt, but the person can legally take hold of your property.

A mechanic’s lien goes by many other names. It can also be called a construction lien, supplier’s lien, laborer’s lien, or artisan’s lien, but the multiple names all mean the same thing. It is a security interest on the title of your home someone who has provided labor to improve your home can take if he/she has not been paid for the labor. The mechanic’s lien is not a new idea. In fact, the idea was first used in the late 1700s by Thomas Jefferson, for the construction of Washington, DC.

The mechanic’s lien is a source of protection for the worker. Anybody who has done work on your home can get a lien on your property. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and civil engineers are just a few of the names. If they have done work on your home or property and you have not paid them for their services, they have a right to take out a lien. (Mechanic’s liens are even a constitutional right in the state of California.)

However, getting a mechanic’s lien isn’t as simple as just saying “I did work on your home, and I haven’t been paid, so now I own your home.” Most states require a 20-day notice before a lien can be pursued. The worker must have also completed a notice of commencement, a legal document showing that he/she did work on your home and/or property. The enforcement of a mechanic’s lien is through the judicial system, and this could mean months of documents and court appearances. During these few months, you might be able to gather up the amount of money to adequately repay the laborer, therefore avoiding a seizure of your home.

Most often, a mechanic’s lien is pursued against your vehicle. If a mechanic has repaired your car and you haven’t paid him/her for it, the mechanic can take action to sell your car and get recompensed for his/her work. More often than not, work on your home will not even be close in costing as much as the value of your entire property. With a mechanic’s lien on your home, it is more likely that goods within your home, such as electronics or furniture, can be taken and sold for compensation.

Whenever you hire someone to do work on your home, make sure you both can agree on a payment plan for services, and make sure you can handle it. If this doesn’t happen, you could be very sorry.

David Pilley

David Pilley

David Pilley is a May 2010 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a B.A. in communication studies and a creative writing minor. He is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina.

He played clarinet for the Marching Tar Heels in 2005 and 2006. He also volunteered for STV, the student-run television station at UNC-Chapel Hill, in the spring of 2010. He shot video, wrote scripts, and acted for “Off the Cuff,” UNC’s longest running sketch comedy show. He has the rare distinction of having lived in a dorm all four years of his undergraduate college career. He was also on Franklin Street on the night of April 4, 2009. His future plans are to pursue a master’s degree in journalism and to one day work for the media as a sports journalist or broadcaster.

Being one of eight children, David realizes finance is an important topic to everyone, regardless of his/her knowledge of the subject. His interests are in personal finance, budgeting, and savings.

In his spare time, David enjoys watching sports and standup comedy, as well as doing crossword puzzles and writing in the first person. He also thoroughly enjoys trivia and, one day, hopes to participate on the game show Jeopardy!, where he will try to break Ken Jennings’ 74-game win streak.
David Pilley

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