Mechanic’s Liens

Missouri’s mechanic’s lien laws allow for a contractor, subcontractor, materialmen, and others to take a security interest in the title of a property upon supplying labor or materials to improve such property.  Chapter 429 of the Missouri Code contains the procedures for obtaining, perfecting, and enforcing mechanic’s liens.  

For a lien to be valid you must comply with all procedural requirements.    NOTICE is the most important requirement which must be personally served.  Original contractors must give owners Notice of the Owner’s property rights.  An original contractor is one who contracts directly with an owner to perform labor or furnish materials. Errors in the information contained int he notice of rights that may prejudice the owner, title company, disbursing company or subsequent purchaser will cause forfeiture of the claimant’s lien to the extent of the prejudice.   DEADLINE for filing a claim is only six (6) months from the date of last labor or material provided to the property. (See Section 429.080).  A LIEN STATEMENT (Section 429.080) must include a “just and true account of the demand”, a true description of the property and the name of the owner, contractor or both and be verified by oath.  It is important to review the invoices attached to the Lien and determine if non-lienable items are included such as equipment rental, downtime, other laborers/material providers who have signed lien waivers or work already addressed by prior lien waivers.  If still not paid, a lawsuit (Petition to Enforce the lien) must be filed within Six (6) months of filing the lien statement. 

Examining Priority is critical.  When did the lien attach to the property?  When did the other interested liens attach?  With a Mechanic lien there is a FIRST SPADE rule (Section 429.060) where the lien attaches when it becomes first visible that actual construction of new property or improvements to existing property is in operation.  All mechanic’s liens on the same project are on the same footing and have equal priority.  Generally, mechanic’s liens DO NOT have priority over purchase money mortgages where the money was used to purchase the real property.

LIEN WAIVERS are necessary to protect homeowners.  As to subcontractors, there is no waiving of their lien rights for partial payments without an unconditional, final lien waiver.

 DEFENSES to a Lien include failure: (1) to file a just and true account, (2) to provide Notice by original contractors, (3) to file a Lien within 6 months, (4) to commence a lawsuit within 6 months, (5) Defective work, (6) to accurately describe the legal description of the property, (7) Already paid, (8) lien is invalid because it is based on a purchase and sale agreement and not a construction contract, (9) lien waiver executed, (10) failure to join all necessary parties, (11) lien includes work performed by others, (12) lien includes non-lienable items, (13) lien claimant did not name or properly serve the lender.

Lawn work does not extend deadline for lien according to the 2013 ruling by the Court of Appeals in the Western District of Missouri. Manning Construction Company Inc. v. MCI Partners. LLC.   The court determined that the work was added solely to extend lien rights after the work for the project had been completed.