INTRODUCTION TO PENNSYLVANIA MECHANICS LIENS
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Copyright © 1994-2014
Zegarelli Law Group.
All rights reserved.
Gregg R. Zegarelli, Esq.
The definitions used in the Act are of paramount importance. Following are
certain terms used in this summary, which, for ease of reference, have been
defined as follows:
"Structure" means any building, structure or improvement erected or
constructed on land, together with the personal property and fixtures.
"Contractor" means the business contracting with the owner for
construction, alteration, repair, labor, fixtures, or machinery. Includes
architects and engineers who supervise the construction, alteration or
"Subcontractor" means the business contracting with
"Claimant" means either the Contractor or Subcontractor which is
filing a lien.
"Materials" means the building materials,
supplies of all kinds, and fixtures necessary and incorporated into the
"Completion" means the performance of the last of
the labor or delivery of the last of the materials required by the terms of
the Claimant's contract.
"New Construction" means the erection and construction of new
Structure or a substantial addition rendering the original Structure for a
new or distinct use and effecting a material change in the interior or
exterior thereof."Alteration/Repair" means the alteration or repair of an
existing Structure which is not New Construction. See § 1201.
Contractors and Subcontractors have the right to place a lien on a
Structure, but only if the amount of the claim exceeds $500. See § 1301.
Unless a person is a Contractor or Subcontractor, there is no right to lien.
See § 1303. If the Structure is not completed through no fault of the
Claimant, then the right to lien nevertheless exists. See §1305. Owners
cannot remove the Structure from the land to evade a lien. See §1307.
As a result, when contracts are approximately $500, we often counsel clients
to price the contract with the owner and/or the contract with subcontractors
to fit specifically within or outside of the minimum dollar amounts.
Contractor or Subcontractor may waive the right to lien, if the waiver is in
writing. See § 1401.
If a Contractor waives the right to
lien, then to enforce the waiver against the Subcontractor, the Contractor
must: 1) prove actual notice to the Subcontractor prior to the Subcontractor
furnishing labor or materials; or 2) file the Contractor's contract with the
owner with the proper Prothonotary: a) prior to any performance of work by
anyone; b) within ten (10) days following the execution of such contract; or
c) not less than ten (10) days prior to the execution of contract with the
Subcontractor. The filing must be indexed in the name of the Contractor as
defendant and owner as plaintiff, and also must be filed with the Contractor
as plaintiff and the owner as defendant. See § 1402.
If liens are not waived for Subcontractors, and if the claims of the
Subcontractors exceed the unpaid balance of the contract price with the
Contractor, then the owner may apply to have the claim limited to the
pro-rata share, but only if either: 1) the Subcontractor has notice of the
times for payment prior to the time that the Subcontractor provides labor or
materials; or 2) the contract was filed with the Prothonotary. See § 1405.
A Subcontractor may rescind the contract with the Contractor, if the
Contractor's contract with the owner permits payment to Contractor more than
four (4) months following Completion, unless: 1) the Subcontractor has
actual notice of that contractual term prior to the time of the execution of
the contract with the Contractor; or 2) the Contractor's contract with owner
was filed with the Prothonotary. If rescinded, the Subcontractor may still
file a lien for prior work. See § 1406.
PERFECTION OF LIEN
perfect a lien—that is, to put the public on notice of the lien—the
requirements are different for Contractors and Subcontractors, and for New
Construction and an Alteration/Repair.
Special Rules for Subcontractors.
in the case of an Alteration/Repair (but not New Construction), the
Subcontractor must provide a preliminary notice to the owner of the
intention to file a lien. The notice must set forth in writing: 1) the
name of the Subcontractor; 2) the name of the Contractor; 3) a general
description of the property; 4) the amount due; and 5) a statement of
the intention to file a lien. The preliminary notice for an
Alteration/Repair must be given on or before the date of Completion.
See § 1501(a).
In cases of both New Construction and an Alteration/Repair, the
Subcontractor must give formal written notice of the intention to file a
lien, with the following information: 1) name of Subcontractor; 2) name
of the Contractor; 3) amount due; 4) nature of the labor and materials
furnished; 5) date of the Completion; 6) description of the property
subject to the lien; and 7) the date upon which the preliminary notice
was given, with a copy thereof. The formal notice may be served by mail,
posting or by Sheriff.
The formal notice must be given at least thirty (30) days prior to
the filing of the lien.
See § 1501(b).
At any time after Completion by a
Subcontractor, the owner or Contractor may perform a special filing to
require the Subcontractor to file any lien within thirty (30) days after
notice to the Subcontractor of the filing. See § 1506. In the event of
such a filing, a Subcontractor would not have to give a formal notice to
the owner. See § 1501(b).
perfect a lien, every Claimant must: 1) file the claim within six (6)
months after Completion; and 2) serve notice to the owner within (1)
month after filing of the court term and number, and the date of filing
the claim. An Affidavit of Service (or Acceptance of Service) must be
filed within twenty (20) days after service the claim, which filing must
contain the date and manner of service. Service must be by the Sheriff
or by posting. See § 1502. The dates for filing the claim must be
coordinated with the preliminary notice and formal notice required by
Subcontractors. For example, a Subcontractor's formal notice would have
to be given within three (3) months after Completion.
information required by law to be in the claim is complex, but the claim
must generally provide: 1) the name of the Claimant, and whether the
Claimant is a Contractor or Subcontractor; 2) name of owner; 3) date of
Completion; 4) the amount due; 5) a description of the Structure; and
a) if a Subcontractor, then: i) the name of the Contractor; ii) the
date of the preliminary notice, if any; and iii) the date of the
formal notice; or
b) if a Contractor and a contract for an agreed sum, then: i) an
identification of the contract; and ii) a general statement of the
character of the labor and/or materials furnished; or
c) if a Contractor and not a contract for an agreed sum, then: a
detailed statement of the character of the labor or materials
furnished, or both, and the price charged therefor. See § 1503.
Mechanic's Lien becomes effective: 1) for New Construction, as of the
date of visible commencement upon the land; or 2) for an
Alteration/Repair, as of the date of filing the claim. See § 1508. The
owner may file security of adequate amount with the court to release the
REMEDIES AFTER NOTICE
service of the preliminary notice of a Subcontractor, the owner may retain
funds due to the Contractor. See § 1601. If the owner retains funds due to a
Contractor, then the owner must give written notice to the Contractor, which
provides: 1) the name of the Subcontractor; 2) the amount of the claim; 3)
the amount withheld, if any; and 4) that if the Contractor does not
undertake to settle or defend the claim within thirty (30) days from service
of the notice, then the owner is entitled to the remedies below. The notice
may be given personally, or by certified mail. See § 1602.
If the Contractor does not settle or otherwise secure against the claim,
then the owner may: 1) pay the claim of the Subcontractor and sue the
Contractor; or 2) defend the claim, and the Contractor shall pay all of the
owner's costs (including attorneys' fees) for such defense, whether or not
the owner is successful.
to obtain a judgment upon a claim shall be commenced within two (2) years
from the date of filing. A verdict must be recovered within five (5) years
from the date of filing. See § 1701. Nothing in the Act prevents a
Contractor or Subcontractor from otherwise proceeding to collect the debt.
See § 1702.
conclusion, the most important point is that a Contractor has only four (4)
months from the date of Completion to file a lien. A Subcontractor has three
(3) months to provide a formal notice of intention to file a lien, and then
only one (1) additional month to file the lien. In addition, a Subcontractor
must give the owner a preliminary notice if the work is an
Also, the right to lien may be waived in
writing, or waived through a filing with the Prothonotary. Depending upon
your interest as an owner, Contractor, or Subcontractor, you may need to
more carefully review agreements, implement a change to your standard
agreement, or implement a program to consistently file or check for filings
with the Prothonotary.
Contact us for more information:
Z e g a r e l l i
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Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1407 USA
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