Four tips for filing mechanics' liens for residential and commercial projects

John Lande, Iowa Construction Law, Iowa Real Estate & Land Use, Iowa Banking Law, Dickinson Law Firm, Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 09/22/2015 at 10:46 AM by John Lande

We have previously discussed 2013 revisions to Iowa's mechanics' lien law. We have also discussed how the Iowa Supreme Court recently made it easier to enforce a mechanics' liens through litigation. In light of these changes, there are four tips that subcontractors and general contractors would do well to keep in mind whenever they are working on a commercial or residential project. By keeping these tips in mind, and gathering the necessary information, a subcontractor or general contractor who needs to file a lien will have the information he needs to do so quickly and efficiently. Whenever you begin work on any construction project you should know:

  1. Who owns the real estate. One important piece of information you will need in order to file a mechanics' lien is the identity of the owner of the real estate. For many subcontractors this may mean doing some due diligence before agreeing to work on a particular job. Ownership is sometimes unclear, and trying to sort out who the owner is while under time pressure to file a lien can be difficult and have potentially serious consequences for the enforceability of the lien.

  2. The legal description of the real estate. To file a lien you will also need to have the legal description for the real estate where the job was performed. Obtaining this information should be part of your due diligence along with determining the identity of the owner. The legal description can often be found by looking up the property on the county recorder or county assessor websites.

  3. The work you do on the job. Every mechanics' lien must include a statement justifying the amount that you claim is still owed. A clear explanation of the work you performed or material you provided is necessary for your lien, and may even help you resolve a dispute about payment.

  4. When you finished work or last provided materials. In order to have an enforceable mechanics' lien that is worth anything you will need to file the lien within 90 days of finishing work on the project. By keeping track of when you finished work you will be in a position to know when you will have to make the important decision of whether to file a mechanics' lien.

By having this information available, contractors will be in a good position to efficiently and effectively evaluate whether they should file a mechanics' lien. Since a lien must generally be filed within 90 days of completion of work there often isn't very much time to evaluate the merits of filing a lien. The information above will allow you to act quickly if you determine you need to file a mechanics' lien. This list, and other articles published online, is not a substitute for legal advice. Iowa's mechanics' lien law has many nuances and consequential deadlines that should be evaluated by an attorney. However, contractors who have the information detailed above will be in a good position to efficiently file and enforce a mechanics' lien. If you have questions, you should consult with your attorney.

The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed.

- John Lande


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