How to File a Mechanic’s Lien: A Powerful Tool for Contractors and Subcontractors

Unfortunately, at times, property owners fail to pay contractors and subcontractors for work completed even when obligated to do so. Texas law allows a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer to file a Mechanic’s and Materialmen’s Lien (“Mechanic’s Lien”) as a way to secure payment for their work.


What is a Mechanic’s Lien?


A Mechanic’s Lien is a powerful tool available for a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer to increase the likelihood of payment for unpaid labor, materials and/or equipment provided to a private landowner. A Mechanic’s Lien can include the cost for surveys, labor, materials, rental equipment, and other resources used in building, remodeling, and repairs to real property. When a Mechanic’s Lien is properly done and filed in the county the property is located in, the lien creates a cloud on the landowner’s title and gives notice to lenders and people potentially wanting to purchase the property that there is a lien on it. The landowner is unlikely going to be able to sell or refinance their property if a Mechanic’s Lien is on it until the lien is taken care of. In addition, a Mechanic’s Lien brings a threat of a potential foreclosure and forced sale of the property.


Why should I file a Mechanic’s Lien?


A Mechanic’s Lien gives a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer an additional source to recover any unpaid amounts. A General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer still has the ability to sue the landowner for a breach of contract, but a Mechanic’s lien gives a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer the ability to file a lawsuit to foreclose on the Mechanic’s Lien, force the sale of a property and can recover any potential attorney’s fees and costs.


What do I need to do to file a Mechanic’s Lien?


To perfect a Mechanic’s lien, a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer must do the following:

1. Serve the property owner and general contractor with a Pre-Lien Notice if you were not hired by the property owner;

2. File a Mechanic’s Lien Affidavit in the county the property is located in; and

3. Serve the Mechanic’s Lien Affidavit on the property owner and general contractor after it is filed.


The deadline for Step 1 (serving the Pre-Lien Notice) depends on whether the work completed was for a commercial project or a residential project.

  • For a commercial project, if you were hired by the General Contractor, then the Mechanic’s Lien Pre-Lien Notice must be served on the property owner and General Contractor no later than the 15th day of the third month following the month that work was performed and unpaid. Subcontractors and/or Suppliers hired by a Subcontractor are required to serve an additional Pre-Lien Notice to the General Contractor by no later than the 15th day of the second month from providing unpaid labor/material to the Project before serving the above notice.

  • For a residential project, if you were hired by the General Contractor, then you must serve the Property Owner and the General Contractor with a Pre-Lien Notice no later than the 15th day of the second month following the month that work was performed and unpaid.

The deadline for Step 2 (filing the Mechanic’s Lien Affidavit) also depends on whether the work completed was for a commercial project or a residential project.

  • For a commercial project, the Mechanic’s Lien Affidavit must be filed no later than the 15th day of the fourth calendar month from when the contract is terminated in writing, has been completed, finally settled, or abandoned.

  • For a residential project, the Mechanic's Lien Affidavit must be filed no later than the 15th day of the third calendar month from when the contract is terminated in writing, has been completed, finally settled, or abandoned.

The deadline for Step 3 (serving notice of the filed Mechanic’s Lien Affidavit) is the same regardless if the work completed was on a commercial or residential project. The notice of the filed Mechanic’s Lien must be served on the property owner and general contractor no later than the fifth day after filing the Mechanic’s Lien.


**Note: to file a lien against a homestead property, either you, or the General Contractor must: (1) have a written contract signed by the Property Owner (if they are a married couple, then both must sign the contract); (2) before the work begins; and (3) the contract must be filed with the County Clerk of the county the property is located in.


If you are a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Architect, Engineer, Supplier or Laborer that provided labor or materials to a project but have not been paid, call us at 903-716-6668 to set up a consultation to discuss your legal matter, answer questions, and recommend a course of action. We are happy to help.

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