A Brief Look at Mechanics’ Liens


Mechanics’ liens are liens filed against real estate to ensure full payment to contractors and subcontractors who make improvements to such real estate. In Pennsylvania, they are governed by the Mechanics’ Lien Law of 1963. It is important to note that the definitions of contractor and subcontractor under the act include suppliers of materials used in the improvements. Also, there are restrictions concerning subcontractors filing liens against certain residential properties when the contractor has been fully paid by the owner (consult an attorney for details). Also, under certain circumstances, contractors and subcontractors may waive their lien rights.

Lien Filing

Mechanics’ liens are not automatically perfected upon completion of the work or delivery of the supplies by the contractor or subcontractor.  Indeed, in order to perfect the lien, the contractor or subcontractor must file a lien claim with the Court within 6 months of completion of the work. In addition, subcontractors must give the owner 30 days prior written notice before they file their claims. Also, recent amendments to the lien law have imposed additional notice requirements where the cost of the project is $1.5 million or more (consult an attorney for details).

Judgment and Execution

However, after the lien claim has been successfully filed, the contractor or subcontractor must take 2 further steps to judicially enforce payment by the owner: 1. they must commence a lawsuit to obtain judgment on the lien claim within two years of the filing of the lien claim, and 2. they must obtain execution on said judgment, which would result in the subject real estate being sold at sheriff’s sale and the proceeds from the sale paid to the contractor or subcontractor to pay the debt.

I have filed lien claims and represented parties in lawsuits to obtain judgments on lien claims.  If you wish to discuss with me your options in either filing or enforcing a mechanics’ lien or defending against one, please telephone me at 814-283-5788. Your initial consultation will be at no cost.