A mechanics lien recorded at the county clerk is a method of collection for funds and fees not paid during a construction job.
Ohio uses a notice of lien when you, as a contractor, or other type of laborer, haven’t been paid for work already performed. In some situations, other notices must be filed before you can file a lien. Adhere to specific timelines to retain your legal rights.
Filing a Mechanic's Lien
Use an online template, Affidavit of Lien, to write the actual lien document. The Affidavit of Lien is filed at the county clerk in the county where the property physically sits. The location of your business or residence is not relevant – jurisdiction falls in the county where the property is located.
Notarize the completed forms. File the Affidavit of Lien no more than 60 days from the last day of labor you provided on the job. While it isn’t necessary, sending and serving a Pre-Lien Payment Demand letter might resolve the issue prior to starting the court lien process. Templates available online outline what to say in a demand letter to the property owner. The letter should include the amount owed along with a deadline for payment and a description of the work performed.
Other Potential Notices When Filing a Lien
Some projects require that a Notice of Commencement be filed with the county clerk, stating the scope of the project for the public record. If no Notice of Commencement is required, you don’t need to do anything else before filing the affidavit.
However, if a Notice of Commencement is required, you must then file and serve the property owner with a Notice of Furnishing. The Notice of Furnishing, which can be found online, makes the owner aware of your rights to a lien on the property if payment is not made. This notice preserves your rights as the project goes on, but does not imply that the property owner is in default of payment at the time of serving the notice. Serve the notarized notice to the property owner within 21 days of filing the Notice of Commencement.
Understanding Legal Timelines
Timelines are essential to protect your legal rights in Ohio. Failure to adhere to designated timelines when filing any of the notices can nullify your right to a mechanic’s lien. You must file the Affidavit of Lien within 60 days of the last day you performed work on a residence up to two units; for multifamily dwellings of three or more, your timeline is up to 75 days.
Once the affidavit is recorded with the county clerk, you have 30 days to serve the property owner with a copy.
In a situation where a Notice of Commencement exists, the Notice of Furnishing must be filed within 21 days of the Notice of Commencement’s filing date. The 60-day window to file the Affidavit of Lien is independent of the 21 days required for the Notice of Furnishing. Adhere to both timelines. Always be aware of timelines even if the property owner is discussing payments or other work with you.
Don't lose your right to a valid mechanic’s lien by not filing proper paperwork in a timely fashion because you think the owner might pay. Liens are valid for six years and not renewable in Ohio. They are released either by the court, by the lien holder or upon expiration. Warranty, repair and punch work are excluded from the timeline and do not extend the 60-day window.
After the Lien is Filed
Just because you have the lien filed, recorded it and properly served a copy to the property owner, doesn’t mean you will automatically be paid. Once you have the lien in place, complete and serve a Pre-Foreclosure Payment Demand Letter to the property owner. If you still don’t get a resolution, you may need to file a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien. However, if the property owner files a Notice to Commence Suit, your deadline to file suit is reduced to only 60 days; if you don’t file, the lien is extinguished.