Can you record a mechanic’s lien for mere maintenance services?
We are all familiar with the concept that a mechanic’s lien is allowed for the conferring of labor and materials to a project which improves real property. But what if you are not installing materials, but simply maintaining the property? That makes the filing of a mechanic’s lien more problematical.
The general rule is that a lien may not be filed merely for maintenance services. Take for example a landscape contractor. There is surely entitlement to a mechanics lien if you were to install an irrigation system, new plant material, walkways, a retaining wall, and the like. But what if you have a monthly service contract with a large office park, which includes mowing, trimming, fertilizing, and adjusting the irrigation system? The owner falls behind and now they owe for two months work. Can you file that lien? Probably not. The reason is you have not furnished anything that constitutes an improvement to the property.
On the other hand, if part of the services consists of new plantings (for example seasonal flowers), that would entitle you to a mechanics lien. Nor is there any requirement that the new plant material stay in place for a particular period of time–annuals vs perennials. For this reason, we recommended our clients to perform some improvement work in order to get them over the hurdle of a mechanic’s lien, especially if they begin suspecting they’re not going to be paid.
But there is still a problem. Assume that your bill consists of $3,000.00 for maintenance services but only $500.00 for new plant material. You cannot file a lien for the full $3,500.00—only the smaller portion for the plant material.
On the other hand, by filing a mechanic’s lien for the $500.00, it sets you up for serious settlement negotiations. The other side may very well want to settle with you for the entire amount in exchange for releasing the mechanics lien.