The ABCs of Mechanics’ Liens in Maryland

By:  Robert S. Campbell, Esquire                                       

What is a mechanic’s lien?

A mechanic’s lien is a tool that can be used in Maryland by contractors, including subcontractors and material men, to attempt to collect money that is owed to them for work done and materials furnished for or about a building. It is a claim against the property where the work was done.  A mechanic’s lien is also intended to protect subcontractors and material men that do not have a contract with the owner of the property at issue.

Can a contractor or subcontractor still pursue a civil action if they file a mechanic’s lien?

Yes. A mechanic’s lien action is an action against the property only.  You may have other civil remedies, such as an action for breach of contract, against other parties that may be pursued. 

Is all property subject to a mechanic’s lien?

No. A mechanic’s lien can only be filed against certain statutorily described improvements to property, such as newly erected buildings or buildings repaired, rebuilt or improved as long as they have been done so to the extent of 15 percent of the building’s value.  There are a number of other statutorily allowed work that permits a lien, such as installation of a swimming pool, engineering services, architectural services, and other services related to the construction and repair of the property.  You should speak with a lawyer to determine if your particular work would be the subject of a mechanic’s lien.

Are there time limits for the filing of a mechanic’s lien?

There are strict deadlines associated with the filing of a mechanic’s lien.   A subcontractor or other material man who is not in direct privity of contract with a statutory “owner” of property must serve a “Notice to Owner or Owner’s Agent of Intention to Claim a Lien” within 120 days after doing the work or furnishing the materials.  There is also a 180 day time limit for filing the Petition with the Circuit Court to enforce the lien.  The calculation of those time limits involves interpretation of Maryland statutory provisions and rules.  The notice and petition have similarly statutorily defined forms that must be adhered to in the filing of a lien.  We would recommend that you consult with an attorney concerning the time requirements and form for the service of the notice and the filing of a lien. 

What happens if you are granted a mechanic’s lien?

If the court grants your mechanic’s lien, you may have lien that can be enforced by sale of the property or that must be satisfied if the property is sold.  The court may order that a bond be set to remove the effect of the lien.  If there is equity in the property, the enforcement of a lien may speed payment to the enforcing party.

Do I need a lawyer to file a mechanics’ lien?

While you are not required to have a lawyer, the detailed requirements and the limited time period within which to file can make the process daunting.  It is strongly recommended that you hire an attorney to file on your behalf.  Also, if you operate under a corporate form or limited liability company, you may need an attorney to file papers with the courts in Maryland.

This information is provided for general information only. None of the information provided herein should be construed as providing legal advice or a separate attorney client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney of your choice about your particular situation. While PK Law has taken reasonable efforts to insure the accuracy of this material, the accuracy cannot be guaranteed and PK Law makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.