Design professionals with contracts can file mechanic’s liens

On Behalf of | Nov 4, 2021 | Real estate disputes |

Design professionals create living spaces or workspaces that provide shelter, inspiration, community and serve the needs of the owner or occupant. It is a complex job that takes creativity, education and hard work, so they deserve to get paid for their work. While construction contractors, subcontractors and suppliers typically use mechanic’s liens, architects, engineers and other design professionals with a valid contract can also file a lien against a property regardless of whether the project ever gets off the ground.

What is a mechanic’s lien?

These legal claims are placed against a piece of property because its owner breached a valid contract and owed money to the lienor. Once a lien is in place, the owner cannot sell the property without removing the lien. Buyers can find out if there is a lien on the property by doing a title search, which will determine if someone filed a lien at the county clerk’s office where the property is. The reason for filing a lien against the property is that owners are likely highly motivated to resolve the lien if they have a buyer.

The process involved

In Pennsylvania, building projects valued at $1.5 million or more must file a notice of commencement with the State Construction Registry. The owner must file this within 45 days of furnishing labor and materials. Filing a mechanic’s lien here involves a series of steps with deadlines. This involves:

  • Formal notice: Those planning to file a lien must serve a formal notice to the owner at least 30 days before filing.
  • Lien claim: The claimant must file at the clerk’s office within six months of concluding their work. They must then serve notice of a lien claim on the owner. An affidavit of serving the claim must be filed with the county court within 20 days of service on the owner.
  • Action to enforce: The claimant must file it within two years of filing the lien claim, or the lien is unenforceable. The deadline is non-negotiable.

Options for resolving the issue

Real estate law attorneys typically have experience filing and enforcing a mechanic’s lien. They can work with the client to ensure that the owner pays the lien or strikes a new agreement. Even if the project is incomplete or never started, the design professional is still paid for their services if work is done and they have a valid contract. Once the owner pays the lien, the claimant will then release it.