- Mechanic’s Lien Update: Applicability
- December 19, 2011 | Author: Ronald H. Pollock
- Law Firm: Barley Snyder - Lancaster Office
Both owners and contractors need to evaluate carefully the applicability of mechanic’s liens. Specifically, the Mechanic’s Lien Law permits contractors to lien real estate for labor or materials furnished in the erection, construction, alteration or repair of any improvement. The mechanic’s lien law defines improvement to be work that is “incidental” to erection, construction, alteration or repair. Historically, the Courts have differentiated between work that is “incidental” and work that is “independent” of erection, construction, alteration or repair of any building or permanent structure on real estate.
Recent litigation handled by Barley Snyder is illustrative of this point. Specifically, Barley represented a project owner against whose property a lien was improperly attached.
The owner contracted with the contractor to repair and resurface drives and parking lots. Work began in October 2009 and a certificate of substantial completion was issued on November 16, 2009. No other construction was completed during this time frame. Previously, in June 2008, the owner contracted with a separate contractor to install sidewalks, curbing and assorted landscaping projects. The liening contractor was not a party to this contract. A certificate of substantial completion was issued to the separate contractor on January 26, 2009. In December 2009, after the contract with the liening contractor was completed, the owner contracted with the separate contractor to perform interior renovations. The liening contractor was not involved with this contract either. Testimony at a hearing confirmed that these three contracts were entered separately and were not part of a larger renovation scheme or plan for the property.
The original contractor ultimately filed a mechanic’s lien. The owner filed preliminary objections asserting that the work performed by the original contractor was not incidental to the construction or erection of a permanent building or structure.
Based upon the law as described above, the Court agreed with the owner and the mechanic’s lien was stricken.
Careful analysis of the “incidental” versus “independent” distinction is necessary for all parties involved in the lien process.