Mechanics Liens

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A mechanic's lien is an involuntary lien created by statute against real property in order to secure contractors', laborers', and suppliers' rights to payment for services or materials that are supplied to the improvement of real estate. The Massachusetts mechanic's lien law is Chapter 254 of the General Laws. This law was radically changed several years ago, and it expands who can use the lien process and changes recording and filing deadlines. A mechanic's lien does not require court approval before being perfected, which means it can be a very powerful tool that puts a cloud on title to real property. However, anyone hoping to use the lien procedure must strictly comply with certain procedural rules. It is important to seek guidance from a Boston mechanics liens lawyer. At Pulgini & Norton, our real estate attorneys can advise you on the impact of these liens.

How Mechanics Liens Affect Realty in Massachusetts

The contractor, supplier, or laborer hoping to enforce a mechanic's lien must show the existence of a contract in writing that states the completion date for the work in order to enforce a lien. In the past, if there was no contract laying out the terms of the relationship, no lien could be established. Thus, for example, a lien could not be established for a drywall supplier who did not get paid if the supplier used purchase orders and invoices to get paid, since they did not count as a written contract. Now, written contracts are any written contracts that are enforceable in Massachusetts.

In the past, mechanics' liens could only be filed in connection with building construction or when improvements became part of the realty. However, a broader definition now applies, so that what the lien attaches to can be a contract related to any improvement to real property, including erections, repairs, removals, or alterations. For example, a swimming pool may be considered an improvement and may be subject to a lien.

Also broadened is the law related to what services are subject to a mechanic's lien. In the past, the statutory language focused on those who construct on real property and materials actually used for the structure. However, even the furnishing of rental equipment, appliances, or tools, which are not ultimately affixed to the home they are used to improve, now can lead to a mechanic's lien.

An owner previously needed to enter into the agreement him or herself in order to be charged with a mechanic's lien. However, the definition of "owner" is now expanded to include any person acting for or with the consent of an owner for improvements to real property. This means that a general contractor could contract with a property manager of an apartment and obtain a lien on the apartment.

A general contractor can file a notice of contract any time after the written contract is executed but not earlier than 60 days after filing a notice of substantial completion, 90 days after filing or recording the notice of termination, or 90 days after someone performs the last labor or materials regarding the real estate improvement. The timing is different for subcontractors and suppliers.

Explore Your Options with a Real Estate Attorney in Boston

Some property owners may be surprised by the law of mechanic's liens, but a Boston real estate lawyer at Pulgini & Norton can advise people making home purchases or sales on their significance. We also represent individuals in other Massachusetts towns, such as Brookline, Somerville, and New Bedford. Call our property transaction lawyers at 781-843-2200 or contact us via our online form for a consultation.