St. Louis Construction Lawyer Shares General information about Mechanic’s Lien Rights in Missouri
Is someone withholding money from you on a construction project?
The Missouri Mechanic’s lien statutes provide broad protection for numerous professions involved on a construction project, including registered architects, engineer surveyors, laborers, prime contractors, subcontractors, suppliers of materials, equipment lessors, and even landscaping service providers.
The Missouri Mechanic’s lien statutes carve out these rights, but contractors have to strictly comply with the statutory requirements set forth therein or they could risk potential vitiation of their lien by the property owner.
In order to better guide contractors attempting to collect money on a construction project, I have compiled information about Missouri Mechanic’s liens that every contractor should know before filing:
1. Mechanics Liens Must be Filed within 6 Months
In Missouri, a mechanics lien must be filed within six months from the last day materials or labor was provided on a construction project.
This date is critical to lien claimant because the right to file a Mechanic’s lien is created by statute, and the court requires strict compliance with the statute in order for a lien claimant to avail himself/herself of the statutory protections of a mechanic’s lien.
2. Where to file the Mechanic’s Lien
Recorder of Deeds Office or Clerk of the Circuit Court?
Some people get confused and file the lien in the wrong place. The mechanic’s lien statement is not filed with the recorder of deeds office as some believe.
The notice of intent to file a mechanic’s lien is filed with the recorder of deeds office in the county where the project is located. This only applies if the claimant is a subcontractor and a notice of intent is necessary to be filed. Liens have certain requirements that vary depending on the status of the contractor and depending on the status of the person/entity with whom the contractor has contracted. For those reasons, it is important to contact a St. Louis Construction Law attorney to assist you with properly filing your mechanic’s lien.
However, the mechanic’s lien statement is filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the project is located. The filing of the lien is similar to opening a new case in that the clerk will give you a mechanic’s lien number with which it is recorded in the court’s filing system. However, a lawsuit must still be commenced within 6 months in order to enforce the lien.
3. The Mechanic’s Lien Must Include Correct Legal Description
A legal description needs to be included in the lien. To obtain a legal description, you may need to seek the assistance of an experienced St. Louis construction lawyer who is qualified to help with this. Though some exceptions can be made for partially described properties, it is best to have an attorney confirm that you have the full and correct legal description to avoid any issues with the validity of the lien.
There are certain processes through which a construction law attorney can obtain the proper legal description as well as a chain of title report, or what is often used in the construction law industry, an ownership and encumbrance report.
4. Mechanic’s Liens in Missouri must be Notarized
Before filing a mechanic’s lien statement, it needs to be notarized.
Often times a mechanic’s lien can be notarized at your bank, but not all banks will notarize a document unless it has a proper notary block contained therein.
To avoid unnecessary trips back and forth to your bank and to ensure that the notary page of the lien is properly prepared the first time, you should contact a St. Louis Construction Lawyer to assist you with the preparation of the same.
5. The Pre-lien Notice Depends on the Claimant
For subcontractors a notice of intent to lien must be filed. This has to be filed ten days before the mechanics lien. Any other preliminary notice depends on the project and the status of the participant in the project.
- General Contractors (excluding architects) must give what is typically called 429 notice, before receiving payment from the property owner.
For a discussion of 429 notice, see the Frequently Asked Questions Answered by a St. Louis Construction Lawyer.
The nuances in notice drastically vary, and its important to consult a construction law attorney before attempting to file a lien because it could be the difference between collecting thousands of dollars or watching your business go under from lack of working capital.
In the state of Missouri, the failure to provide appropriate preliminary notice or notice of lien rights may lead to the vitiation of your lien.
Fees Should Not Be Included in a Mechanic’s Lien but May Be Awarded
Missouri does not allow any additional fees be added to a mechanics lien such as consequential damages, interest, or attorney’s fees.
The lien is limited to unpaid labor, material and/or equipment supplied for the project, customary profit and overhead.
Just and True Account of Money Owed
A ‘just and true’ account of the money owed is a required element of the lien. This can be a lump sum for general contractors, but for subcontractors an itemized list is needed that should include labor and/or materials furnished and unpaid. Any good construction law attorney will advise you to include an itemized list regardless of your contractor status.
Note: Attorney’s fees and interest are generally awarded to the lien claimant if they are successful.
6. Mechanic’s Lien Priority Depends on Pre-Existing Encumbrances
Generally all participants in a construction project have equal lien rights with very few exceptions. However, these parties do not have priority over many pre-existing liens, such as loans or mortgages on the property.
They do, however, have priority over subsequent encumbrances (if there was no previously recorded lien on the property at the beginning of the project).
7. Always Contact a Missouri Construction Lawyer to Ensure Statutory Compliance
Mechanic’s liens are creatures of statute and have rigid statutory requirements. An experienced St. Louis Construction lawyer can help you navigate through the required elements and assist you with filing a proper mechanic’s lien.
Please note that the foregoing tips are all generally speaking. There are some nuances in the law that differ depending on whether the lien attaches to the land or the building. The differences in priority are discussed in the Construction Law FAQs Answered by a St. Louis attorney.
The bottom line is: in order to properly assess your case, you should always consult with a St. Louis Construction Lawyer before filing a mechanic’s lien.