When you find yourself in the middle of a construction payment dispute, filing a mechanics lien is often the best solution. A mechanics lien gets attached to a property’s records so interested buyers and financiers can see that there are outstanding payments related to it. A mechanics lien, therefore, encourages property owners to produce payment just so the lien gets released from the property’s records.
Filing a mechanics lien is very powerful in getting you paid, but you must do it properly in order for your claim to be considered valid. In Connecticut, there are many rules and regulations that you must follow if you want to make a strong and proper mechanics lien claim.
This guide will explain all the important steps when filing a valid Connecticut mechanics lien, from serving a Notice of Intent to Lien to enforcing a mechanics lien before it expires.
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- Who can file a mechanics lien in Connecticut?
- Serving a preliminary notice in Connecticut
- Filing a general contractor affidavit
- How to File a Mechanics Lien in Connecticut: 4 Steps
- Important deadlines when filing a mechanics lien in Connecticut
- Best practices when filing a mechanics lien in Connecticut
Who can file a mechanics lien in Connecticut?
Any construction participant who has a claim of “more than ten dollars” for labor or materials provided in the construction of a property may file a mechanics lien, so long as their services were done “by virtue of an agreement with or by consent of the owner,” according to Connecticut lien statutes § 49-35).
If you’re a general contractor, subcontractor, or material supplier, you likely have the right to file a Connecticut mechanics lien provided you made a physical contribution towards the construction or improvement of a property. If you’re an equipment lessor, you may file a mechanics lien claim for the value of your rental equipment.
Note that unlicensed construction parties working on residential projects must abide by the laws set out by the Home Improvement Act or New Home Construction Contractors Act for them to have lien rights. Otherwise, Connecticut does not have any other license prerequisites for potential lien claimants.
Serving a preliminary notice in Connecticut
The only required pre-lien notice of in Connecticut is the Notice of Intent to Lien, and this requirement only applies to parties who do not have a direct contract with the property owner.
What information must be in the Connecticut Notice of Intent to Lien?
Connecticut lien laws do not specify the pieces of information that you must include in your Notice of Intent. The statutes only state that you must inform a property owner that you have furnished materials or labor to a project and you intend to claim a lien on the building.
Note that a Notice of Intent to Lien is typically served as a way to set an ultimatum for the property owner and let them know that if you do not receive your payment, you are ready to record a mechanics lien against their property.
When must a Notice of Intent to Lien be served? To whom must a Connecticut Notice of Intent to Lien be sent?
A Notice of Intent to Lien in Connecticut must be sent “no later than 90 days” after your last day of work. It must be served on all property owners. If a general contractor has filed a valid written affidavit in the local county recorder’s office, you are also obligated to serve them your Notice of Intent to Lien.
You may deliver the notice via personal delivery or certified mail. Note that the notice is considered delivered when the intended recipient has acknowledged receipt. If the recipient refuses to receive the notice, you are required to deliver it via publication.
What happens if you fail to serve the Connecticut Notice of Intent to Lien?
Only parties who send a valid Notice of Intent to Lien may file a valid mechanics lien, so you lose your lien rights if you record a lien without serving this notice.
Filing a general contractor affidavit
A written affidavit from a general contractor is a sworn document that includes the following:
- the general contractor’s legal business name
- the original contractor’s business address
- a description of the building, lot, or plot of land of the project
This affidavit is filed in the recorder’s office of the county where the property is located, and it must be filed no later than 15 days after the general contractor begins working. Failing to file this notice will not have any effect on the contractor’s lien rights; they simply will not be one of the mandatory recipients of the Notice of Intent to Lien from lower-tier parties.
How to File a Mechanics Lien in Connecticut: 4 Steps
1. Prepare the mechanics lien document
The following information must be included in your Connecticut mechanics lien form:
- A description of the property’s premises
This does not have to be a legal property description; a physical address may suffice.
- The amount being claimed
This must only be related to the services that you provided for the project.
- The name or names of the parties against whom you are filing the lien
This is the name of the property owners.
- The date of commencement of performance of services or furnishing of materials
This is the date of your first day of work.
- A statement indicating that the amount being claimed is “justly due.”
This is a brief statement in which you say that you are legally entitled to receive the payment that you’re claiming.
Note that once you have finished preparing your document, your mechanics lien must be notarized before you can have it recorded. Do not sign it until you are in the presence of an authorized notary official.
2. Record the mechanics lien
Once your mechanics lien is ready and notarized, you may record it in the recorder’s office in the county where the property is located. You may send your mechanics lien documents to the recorder’s office via mail, or you may file it in person.
Keep in mind that you only have 90 days after your last day of work to file a mechanics lien in Connecticut. Failing to record your lien within this 90-day period will result in the revocation of your lien rights.
Note that you must bring at least two extra copies: you can keep one copy for your own records, and you have to serve the other copy on the property owner.
3. Serve a copy of the mechanics lien on the property owner
Serving a copy of your mechanics lien on the property owner must be done within 30 days of recording your lien in the town clerk’s office.
There are three acceptable methods of serving a certified copy of your lien on the property owner:
- If the owner or general contractor resides in the same town where the lien was filed, service must be done “by any indifferent person, state marshal or other proper officer, by leaving with such owner or original contractor or at such owner’s or the original contractor’s usual place of abode.”
- If the owner or general contractor resides in a different town, the copy may be served “by mailing a true and attested copy of the notice by registered or certified mail to the owner or original contractor at the place where such owner or the original contractor resides.”
- If the copy is returned unclaimed after mailing, “notice to such owner or original contractor shall be given by publication.
4. Enforce the mechanics lien
Once you have filed your mechanics lien and served a copy on the owner and/or general contractor, you have 1 year from the lien’s recordation date before the lien expires. This means that if you do not receive payment within that one-year window, you must enforce your mechanics lien.
Enforcing your mechanics lien implies filing a foreclosure lawsuit against the property. You may recover your payment from the proceeds of the property’s sale if you win the foreclosure case. If you do not enforce your lien in one year, the mechanics lien will expire and it may no longer be enforceable.
Note that Connecticut has no specific rules on releasing a mechanics lien once you receive your payment before your lien expires. You are not obligated by law to release your mechanics lien once it has been satisfied, but it is generally considered a good business practice to do so even if not required.
Connecticut does have a specific provision regarding releasing an invalid mechanics lien. If you receive a request from an interested party to release your invalid mechanics lien, you must have your lien released within 30 days after receiving the written request. Failure to cancel an invalid lien may result in hefty fines.
Important deadlines when filing a mechanics lien in Connecticut
Best practices when filing a mechanics lien in Connecticut
1. Serve the Notice of Intent to Lien on time.
Serving the Notice of Intent to Lien no later than 90 days after you cease working on a project is very important. Failing to do this step will invalidate your lien rights, and you may find it very difficult to recover payment using any other method.
Abiding by the deadlines applies to all your other lien-related concerns. If you do not adhere to the deadlines, chances are your mechanics lien may be contested and its validity may be questioned.
2. Ensure that you include the correct information in your mechanics lien form.
Writing down the correct and accurate information is another key aspect of filing a valid mechanics lien. Construction parties often make the mistake of including a padded amount for the lien claim – remember to only include the amount that is related to the service that you rendered on a property.
Parties also make mistakes when writing their business names in the mechanics lien form. Always go with your official business name, and always write the name that is legally registered. Do not drop suffixes such as Ltd. and Inc. and make sure that the spelling is correct.
3. Serve a copy of your mechanics lien on the owner or general contractor using the proper methods.
Serving a copy of your lien after having it recorded is a little more strict in Connecticut. Make sure that you know where the property owner lives and that you are able to discern if they live in the same town as the property or not.
Note that service requirements are different depending on where the owner or general contractor lives. Also note that you may not just personally deliver your mechanics lien copy as the service must be done by “an indifferent person” or a “proper officer.”
Keep in mind that if the copy returns unclaimed, you have to serve the notice via publication.