Mechanics’ Lien Enforcement and Defense
"MECHANIC'S LIEN - A CONTRACTOR'S BEST FRIEND."
A mechanic’s lien is a statutorily-created lien on real property designed to be a vehicle to assist in securing payment to those individuals or businesses that have furnished labor and materials on a construction project. The lien may be asserted by contractors, subcontractors, design professionals and material suppliers. There is a defined time frame within which the lien must be established or the right to claim the lien is lost. The date by which the lien must be recorded is measured against the date on which labor and/or materials were last supplied to the project. In both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, a prerequisite to the establishment of a valid mechanic’s lien is the existence of an enforceable underlying contract. In Rhode Island, the contract may be either written or oral. In Massachusetts, however, the contract must be in writing.
In both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the law sets forth detailed procedures for establishing and enforcing a mechanic's lien. The establishment procedures vary depending on the relationship between the contracting parties. In all instances, there must be strict and unconditional compliance down to the smallest detail. Generally speaking, any deviation from the statutorily prescribed process will prove to be fatal as there is no way to retroactively cure any misstep undertaken by the party asserting the lien. It is for this reason that it is highly advisable to have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney assisting from the very outset. If the mere recording of a mechanic’s lien in the chain of title results in the party recording the lien receiving payment, there is really no further legal work to be performed, that is, other than preparing a simple discharge. If on the other hand further action is required, the attorney can easily be reinserted into the process for the purpose of filing suit.
The mechanic’s lien is a powerful tool; so powerful in fact that it is prone to being unfairly deployed as a means to coerce a payment that is not otherwise due. The primary reason is that a mechanic’s lien is not subject to judicial approval before being recorded, as, for example, would be the case with obtaining a pre-judgment real estate attachment in a traditional civil lawsuit. From a property owner’s perspective, a bogus lien can be very problematic as it automatically creates a cloud on title. As a practical matter, the lien operates to prevent the sale or refinance of the property. In certain instances, the presence of a mechanic’s lien could even constitute a default under a first-position mortgage and may trigger a foreclosure if not promptly removed. Fortunately, the law provides a remedy for the wrongfully victimized property owner by allowing the owner to promptly petition the court for an immediate order judicially dissolving the lien.
D. Baker Law Group, P.C. is well-versed in mechanic’s lien law in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm has successfully handed scores of mechanic’s lien cases for contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers and property owners. We know the process inside and out and we stand ready to assist you with whatever your needs may be.