How to File Contractor Liens

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Contractor liens provide a means for contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and construction-related businesses to secure payment for unpaid bills. If a contractor is not paid, he can place a lien against the property in question, which will make it difficult for the property owner to sell or transfer the property without first paying their contracting bill and having the lien removed. Contractor liens are often referred to as mechanics liens, and filing them can be confusing, as each state has their own laws governing the process.

Obtain the necessary paperwork. Forms vary from state to state. You will use the form that is required based on the state where the work was performed. Visit the state's website. Most states will have the necessary forms online to file a contractor lien. Forms can also be found at legal supply websites for a small fee.

Read the state's lien law statute. Statues vary from state to state. Confirm that the statute applies to your situation.

Perform a title search on the property. Many states require a title search to be performed to confirm ownership of the property in question. This can be completed by contacting a real property attorney or an independent title company.

File the completed paperwork with the county where the property is located. The lien forms will be filed in the county records by a county clerk. Service laws vary based on jurisdiction, so confirm that you are following the correct service of process. The county clerk or an attorney can clarify the state's service of process steps for you if necessary.

Notify the property owner and other involved parties by certified mail. Inform them that a contractor lien has been filed with the county.

Wait for an answer from the property owner. If the property owner answers your affidavit, a court date will be set and each party will plead their case before a judge, who will make a final decision regarding payment of the lien. If the affidavit goes unanswered, a judgment in favor of the contractor will be filed with the county. The lien will be released upon receipt of payment.


  • Lien laws vary greatly between jurisdictions. Be sure to read the lien statutes for the appropriate state and follow directions accordingly.