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How to File a Construction Lien as a Subcontractor: Step-by-Step Guide
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Tim Forestell
November 6, 2023

How to File a Construction Lien as a Subcontractor: Step-by-Step Guide

As a subcontractor in the construction industry, you likely know the challenges of receiving payment for your work. Construction projects can be complex, and payment disputes are not uncommon. This is where filing a construction lien comes into play.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps to file a construction lien as a subcontractor. This will help you secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.

The Importance of Construction Liens for Subcontractors

A construction lien, often called a mechanic's lien, is a legal claim that subcontractors, suppliers, and other construction professionals can place on a property when they haven't been paid for their services or materials. This legal tool serves as a safeguard for subcontractors, ensuring that they have the means to collect payment in case of disputes of final payment.

Understanding lien rights and how to file them is essential for subcontractors. It helps protect their financial interests and ensure they receive compensation for the work they've completed. Also, governments may have different rules and regulations about subcontractor rights. This includes how many days you have to file a lien, whether you're eligible to file a lien in the first place, and more.

While this guide is a general overview of liens, we recommend doing research regarding local rules and regulations.

Steps to File a Lien as a Subcontractor

Let's explore the step-by-step process of how to file a construction lien as a subcontractor. It's also important that you have documentation and paperwork as proof of the work. Without this documentation and proof of contracts, it may be harder to file a mechanic's lien.

Step 1: Preliminary Notice

Sending a preliminary notice is a critical first step in the construction lien process. It serves as an early warning to the property owner and the general contractor that you are working on the project and have a potential lien right.

The significance of sending a preliminary notice cannot be understated, as it is often a legal requirement in many states. While notice requirements may not be mandatory, failing to provide this notice can jeopardize your ability to file a construction lien later on.

Step 2: Review Deadline

Understanding the review deadline is essential. Timelines can differ from state to state and province to province and missing these deadlines can impact your success. Deadlines typically range from a few months to a year from completing your work or the last delivery of materials.

Missing this deadline can be detrimental to your lien rights. Make sure to consult your state's specific laws and regulations to ensure you don't miss this step.

Step 3: Research the Property

Before proceeding with filing a construction lien, it's essential to conduct thorough research into the property. This involves obtaining information about the property owner, legal descriptions of the property, and other relevant details. The accuracy of this information is critical because any discrepancies could result in rejecting your lien claim.

Step 4: Draft a Lien

Properly drafting a construction lien is essential to ensure its validity. Your lien document should include specific details, such as the amount owed, the project's description, and your contact information. Be precise and accurate in your wording. Any errors or omissions can lead to complications in the lien filing process.

Step 5: File the Lien

Filing a lien claim involves submitting the necessary paperwork to the appropriate government agency in your state. This step includes adhering to specific deadlines and requirements, which can vary significantly from state to state. Familiarize yourself with your state's construction lien laws to ensure you follow the correct procedures.

Step 6: Notifying Parties

After filing the lien, it's essential to notify all relevant parties. This involves sending a copy of the lien claim to the property owner, general contractor, and other key stakeholders. In some cases, it may be advisable to seek legal counsel or involve a local attorney to ensure this process is executed correctly.

If you help homeowners get their houses ready to sell, tell the real estate agent about any liens. Putting a lien on a house will make it more difficult to sell and the real estate agent may help process the lien quicker.

Step 7: Enforcement of Lien

The process doesn't end with the filing of the lien. If you still have not received payment, you may need to enforce the lien through legal means such as suing. This process varies from state to state, and it's crucial to understand the legal options available to you for collecting the debt owed.

Understanding Your Lien Rights as a Subcontractor

In addition to the steps involved in filing a construction lien, subcontractors must have a clear understanding of their lien rights. These rights are essential for protecting your interests if you have payment disputes. Familiarize yourself with the relevant state laws and regulations that provide protections and guidelines for subcontractors.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Lien

While the lien filing process can be intricate, there are common mistakes that subcontractors should be aware of and avoid. These pitfalls include missing deadlines, inaccuracies in lien documents, or failing to notify all parties. By being accurate in your reporting, you can steer clear of these potential obstacles.

Best Practices for Protecting Your Payment Rights

To safeguard your payment rights as a subcontractor, consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Maintain accurate and detailed records of your work, including invoices, contracts, and communications.

  • Send preliminary notices even when not required by law, as they can help establish your lien rights.

  • Stay proactive in resolving payment issues by engaging in open communication with project stakeholders.

  • Seek legal advice when necessary, especially if you encounter disputes that require legal action.


Filing a construction lien as a subcontractor can be a complex process. However, it's a critical tool to ensure you receive the compensation you've earned. Understanding the steps involved, your lien rights, and best practices for protecting your payment rights is essential in navigating the construction industry successfully.

By following this step-by-step guide and being vigilant in your approach, you can secure your financial interests and ensure fair compensation for your valuable contributions to construction projects.

Are you looking to learn more and stay up to date with the construction industry? Subscribe to our email list below.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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