Filing a Lien? Avoid These Mistakes!

New York law allows certain construction professionals to file a mechanic’s lien on a property when the owner fails to pay them for goods or services provided during its construction. Liens cloud the title to a property, preventing the owner from selling or refinancing it, which is why they are such a powerful collection method. If filing a lien doesn’t produce the required payment, the affected party can foreclose on it, which compels the sale of the property so that their invoice can be paid from the proceeds.

For a lien to be successful, it has to meet New York state lien law requirements. Below is an overview of five mistakes that can invalidate a claim and prevent you from receiving your hard-earned money.

  1. Filing When You Don’t Have Lien Rights

Compared to some states, New York grants lien rights to a wide range of parties who contribute to a construction project. Contractors, subcontractors, materials suppliers, laborers, and even gardeners, nurserymen, and those who sell trees and other greenery can all file a lien. There are exceptions, however. They are:

  • A supplier to a supplier
  • Lien claimants who require a license to do their work but lack one
  • Professionals who are not authorized to do business in New York

If you fall into any one of the three categories above and try to file a mechanic’s lien, your claim will be rejected.

  1. Incorrect or Missing Information on the Lien

With a New York mechanic’s lien, correct formatting and content are critical. Something as small as a typo or slight error in the document margins can have a negative impact on your claim. Additionally:

  • You must properly identify yourself or your company. One court invalidated a claim because of the way that the claimant wrote its name.
  • New York City recorders require you to include the block and lot in the property description, although a full legal description is not necessary elsewhere in the state.
  • You cannot include indirect or consequential damages (e.g., attorney’s fees) in the claim, although change orders and extra changes may be included if the property owner agreed to them.
  • In New York, a mechanic’s lien must be notarized in order to be valid.
  1. You Missed a Deadline

In New York, lien deadlines depend on project type. For the majority of projects, you must file within eight months of last providing work or materials. For single-family residences, the deadline is four months. With retainage payments, which may not be due for months after project completion, you have up to 90 days after the payment came due.

Once the lien is filed, you have up to a year to foreclose on it, unless you apply to the court for an extension. Failure to meet these deadlines can damage your claim.

  1. You Did Not Send Notice of the Lien

A copy of the lien must be served on the owner of the property within five days before or 30 days after you file the notice of lien. (Subcontractors, suppliers, and others with lien rights should also serve a copy on the general contractor.) If you don’t file a proof of service with the county clerk within 35 days after filing the lien, you lose the claim.

Work With a New York Mechanic’s Lien Provider

While mechanic’s liens can ensure proper payment of your invoice, they can also damage your rights if completed and served incorrectly. At NYLiens LLC, we have assisted many clients with successful enforcement of their lien rights and faster resolution of their claims and can take the confusion and uncertainty out of your situation. For more information, please contact us or call 718-444-LIEN.

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For over a decade, NYLiens LLC has prepared and filed Notice of Mechanic’s Lien documents for all types of contractors and suppliers throughout New York State.

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