Say you’re driving down the street and get into a standard fender bender. Your headlights are smashed and the paint on your car is chipped. You take it to your local mechanic and they fix it up, no problem. You then receive a bill for a few thousand dollars worth of work. 

You didn’t account for this and payday is next Friday. In the meantime, your mechanic files a mechanic’s lien against your car for the unpaid auto repair debt.

So, what is a mechanic’s lien and how does it work?

What Is a Mechanic’s Lien?

The term mechanic’s lien doesn’t necessarily pertain to auto shops or car mechanics only. It involves all kinds of property with anything ranging from home remodels to work done on a corporate jet.

If any type of work is done and the bill for said work remains unpaid, the contracting party can establish a lien on the piece of property. Whether it be a home, vehicle, aircraft, and the like, the lien then gives the filing party legal claim over the piece of property for which the work was done.

Possessory Lien

This particular type of lien is referred to as a possessory lien. This means the property, such as the car mentioned above, is now legally in the hands of the person who filed the lien.

In short, a lien is a way for someone to secure their claim for unpaid debt or materials. It is an inexpensive and quick method for contractors to secure value for the work they’ve provided. 

To that end, who can file a mechanic’s lien? In general, anyone who makes improvements to property can file a mechanic’s lien. This includes laborers, contractors, sub-contractors, and material suppliers who can all file a mechanic’s lien. 

Rules and Requirements

The validity of the lien depends on a few requirements. For example, the mechanic in the scenario above would need to provide a preliminary notice to the intended party within a specific number of days in relation to when the work was completed.

In addition, the lien itself must detail what the debt entails such as work completed, cost of materials, and name and address of the party in question. The lien itself must be filed within a certain amount of days after work is completed. The lien must then be perfected within a certain timeframe after filing.

State by State

The above conditions are just a few of the requirements that need to be met in order for the lien to remain valid. However, the steps taken do vary state by state.

Mechanic’s liens are recorded as public records within the municipality where the work was completed. Individual counties in the US have different requirements in how they like liens to be formatted. In addition, each state has differing periods in which a lien can be filed.

Get in Line

Hopefully the question basics for ‘what is a mechanic’s lien?’ have been answered. It is important to remember the distinctions in requirements like those above when starting the process as it can be difficult for an individual to file a lien for themselves.

It is important to note that it can be highly beneficial to work with a professional lawyer when filing a lien. If you found the information in this article helpful, be sure to check out the wide variety of other articles in our Legal section.


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