How to Put a Lien on a Property in Massachusetts

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Several types of liens exist in Massachusetts. The most common type that a person or company may put against property typically results from unpaid renovation work or an unpaid civil judgment. Other common property liens in Massachusetts stem from unpaid taxes or other government-related costs.

Read More:What is a Judgment Lien?

How to Put a Lien on Property for Money Owed

Contractors and other home service providers can put a mechanic’s lien on property for money owed for materials and labor involved in construction and renovations. The contract holder, contractor or subcontractor must file a ​Notice of Contract​ and a ​Statement of Account​ to secure a lien on the property.

However, strict guidelines exist as to when contractors, sub-contractors, and others who supply labor and materials must:

  • Send notices.
  • File court paperwork.
  • Act on decisions.
  • Record liens with the Registry of Deeds.

Providers who weren’t hired directly by the homeowner or the contractor must also file a ​Notice of Identification​ within 30 days of starting work to file a future lien as well. This is true whether the project is commercial, new residential or existing residential.

Consult an Attorney to Ensure Proper Steps Are Followed

Claimants should seek the help of an attorney before filing their first lien to ensure they take the proper steps in the right order. Depending on the scope of the project and who hired the claimant, it doesn’t take long for the process to get complicated.

How to Put a Lien on Property for Unpaid Judgments

There are other types of liens in Massachusetts. Some liens are added to the titles of financed vehicles, requiring the owner to repay the loan before selling the car. Liens can be a remedy for unpaid judgments too. These types of property liens in Massachusetts relate to both real estate and personal property.

You have two ways to get a lien on property for money owed:

  • With Notice:​ A claimant can petition the court to attach a lien to property and schedule a hearing. A debtor only has to show that a lien will help her collect money she’s owed on a judgment. However, a property owner might be able to contest the debt. The property owner might also be able to pay off the debt or set up arrangements that are more beneficial to the claimant in the long run.
  • Without Notice​: A claimant can petition the court to attach a lien to the property without first informing the owner. This is only used when the debtor has a reasonable worry that the owner will sell, damage or otherwise reduce the value of the property. The owner can contest the lien after-the-fact. 

This request can also come at the same time as the claimant files a civil case.

Once a judge allows the attachment of debt to a property, the court issues a Writ of Attachment to the Sheriff’s Department for recording. The court can also assign someone to take possession of certain personal property, so the owner can’t sell or damage it before paying the judgment.

How Long Property Liens in Massachusetts Last

Plaintiffs have 20 years to collect on a judgment, but claimants often have a limited time to record a lien once a judge approves a ​Writ of Attachment​. Different types of liens in Massachusetts last for different lengths. For instance, a lien on real estate can last for 20 years, but the lien holder must renew it every six years (according to Massachusetts General Law​,​ ch. 223, Section 114A).

Property owners must clear liens on real estate property by payment or bankruptcy before the owner can sell or refinance. In certain situations, the lien holder can force the sale of property to pay a lien, but most homeowners in Massachusetts are protected from that by the Massachusetts Homestead Act.

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