A mechanic’s lien is a claim made for payment against a homeowner’s property by a contractor who performed construction work on the property.

Essentially, the contractor, known as the lien claimant, is stating the property was improved and, therefore, payment must be made.

In Missouri, mechanic’s liens can be used by individual contractors, construction companies, subcontractors, materials and equipment suppliers, laborers, engineers, registered architects, and landscapers. Missouri’s interpretation of mechanics lien law is quite broad, making the inclusion of landscapers unique to the state.

A document known as “Intent to Lien” is required to be filed within ten days prior to filing of a mechanics lien. Other preliminary notices may be required by Missouri law, depending on the type of project and contractor. For example, a general Contractor must provide notice prior to receiving any payment from the property owner. If the property owner has filed a notice of intended sale, the contractor must file the Intent to Lien five days prior to any property transfer. Various other laws apply. Finally, mechanics liens must be notarized. Failure to provide the proper notices ensures your claim will fail.

Six Months to File…or Forget It

In Missouri, it is crucial that the contractor file a mechanics lien within six months following the last day of the provision of services or materials. Filing should take place at the Recorder of Deeds in the county serving the property’s location. One exception: an equipment leasing company must file within sixty days from the date of removal from the property of the last piece of equipment.

Certainly, the lien must include a legal description that attempts to describe the property as thoroughly as possible, although it is generally acknowledged that this description need not be to the letter, but sufficient to positively identify the property. In matters such as these, the guidance of an experienced Missouri business attorney can make all the difference.

Recouping Fees Associated with Filing a Mechanics Lien

While Missouri courts generally do award fees to the successful lien claimant, fees (i.e., interest, attorney’s fees or damages) cannot be included in the mechanics lien claim. The lien claimant may only request payment for unpaid labor, material, and/or equipment, and routine profit and overhead. Additionally, the lien claimant must provide a “just and true” accounting of all monies due. General contractors can ask for a lump sum; subcontractors must itemize.

Will your Mechanics Lien ensure you get paid for a project? Here too, laws apply. While all who provided services, material or equipment on the project have equal lien rights, any liens related to mortgages or pre-existing loans take priority. However, if no liens were filed on the property prior to the start of the project, (“pre-existing encumbrances”) the lien claimant takes priority. As well, Missouri courts have instituted an “implied waiver” doctrine that gives mechanic’s lien priority over construction loans, even when the mortgage or deed of trust is filed prior to construction beginning.

Need help filing a mechanics lien in Missouri? Please contact Quinn Estate & Elder Law.