When can a mechanic’s lien be placed against the landlord’s interest in New York?
Most states grapple with the dilemma of whether a mechanics’ lien can be placed against a landlord’s interest if the work was authorized by the tenant. On the one hand, contractors want to have the added assurance of enforcing their mechanics lien and getting paid from the owner, and on the other hand it can sometimes be unfair for an owner to be strapped with the bill when he or she had no knowledge or control of the situation.
Take the mechanics lien law of New York. A lien attaches to the landlord’s interest if the owner consented to or requested the improvement. A New York mechanics lien cannot attach to that ownership interest where the tenant alone authorized the work, even if it benefited the property owned by the owner. The landlord must affirmatively consent. Consent is defined as a lease that requires the improvement or if the owner actively participates in the work, in the sense of directing the activities, paying the bills, or otherwise supervising.
So, if the tenant requests work but there is never any dealings with the owner, beware. And, the mere fact that the owner is aware of the improvements is not sufficient. It is therefore wise to receive something in writing whereby the owner consents to the work and acknowledges that it is being done by a specific contractor as to a specific work description. Note that this does not require the landlord be a party to the construction contract, but there might be a consent addendum that can be signed. That way, you will have much more of a chance in enforcing your New York mechanics lien.