- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 28 Jul 2018
In the United States, a mechanic’s lien is a legal guarantee that ensures payment for labour or materials that have been supplied to improve property. Originally developed in relation to motor vehicles, mechanics were allowed to place a lien on the vehicles title if they were not paid for repair works.
However, the use of liens has subsequently widened and they are now sometimes referred to as construction liens, property liens, materialman's liens, supplier's liens and so on, and they are filed when payment has not been received for work done or goods or services provided.
In relation to property, liens appear in public property records and ‘travel with the land’, meaning that when property is bought and sold the lien is still attached to the land. This can make it difficult for property owners to complete a sale, if money is still owed to a contractor, and banks and lenders may be unwilling to refinance or lend against properties with liens attached. This can give property owners the incentive to have the issue settled and the lien removed.
The rules applying to costs that can be included in a lien vary from state to state, but generally, only costs relating to labour, goods and services that have improved the property are accepted. It is not usually possible for legal fees, punitive or qualitative damages to be included in the lien as these are not classed as having improved the property.
The claimant must file a court action to enforce the lien within an specified period of time, otherwise it becomes invalid. A Release of Lien can be sought from the lien holder if they have not brought an action, since this still has the potential of hindering the passing on of the property to a new owner.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Five signs you are at risk.
Biotechnology as it applies to the built environment.
Stopping sound coming through windows.
Government response to the Building a Safer Future consultation.
Energy savings quickly payback any small additional capital investment.
Overbuild and air-space developments.
Airports National Policy Statement and its impact on infrastructure.
Organisations will collaborate on infrastructure initiatives.
Technology informs procurement and planning practices.
BSRIA releases market sector growth projections.
Designing for durability and resilience.