Reminder: Always Order a Title Search for Your Mechanic’s Lien

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Mechanic’s liens are close to my heart as a construction attorney. These powerful tools for collection have been (and likely will be) discussed often here at Construction Law Musings. In fact, they rated their own page here at this little construction blog.

While the form for a mechanic’s lien that is found in the Virginia Code looks simple enough, what goes into that form is key to getting past the initial stage of the mere recording of the lien and moving on to where a lien claimant wishes to go: Payment. Everything from the proper amount of the lien to the timing of filing, the parties named, type of work performed and who signs the lien can trip you up even before you get a chance to have a judge examine your payment claim. In short, this simple form has many pitfalls.

On final item that is not often discussed is the description of the property and who the owner is on a project. A mistake on either of these fronts can be fatal as well. Often the “Owner” listed on the construction documents (the contracts, etc.) is not the same as the owner of the real estate to which your lien would attach. Sometimes a company may hire the general contractor as owner and either be a tenant of the property or could be the operating entity, but not the land holder. In either of these scenarios, merely naming the contract “owner” can be a mistake that could cost you your lien. The owner for lien purposes must be the land owner or there will be a problem.

Another area where the information included can cause a problem is in the “short property description.” A street address may or may not qualify depending upon whether the street address is for one or multiple parcels. Additionally, the street addresses can be changed by the locality based upon 911 needs or other municipal reasons that could invalidate the street address for descriptive purposes. Additionally, online or other tax records may or may not be properly updated in city or county records, leaving you with an improper tax map number. Again, this could lead to mis-identification of the property.

The solution? Have a professional title examiner perform a title search on the property and use the deed owner and property description for this information. Doing so gives you some assurance that you’ve got the proper owner and property description. This information and the help of your friendly neighborhood construction lawyer will go a long way toward proper perfection of your Virginia mechanic’s lien.

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