Most states confer the right to a mechanics’ lien on any person who performs certain work or who provides materials for their work on an owner’s property. Although some states limit the right to a mechanics’ lien to certain types of persons, those persons normally include general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.
A general contractor under a statute regarding mechanics’ liens is the original, principal, or prime contractor. The general contractor is the person who enters into a contract with an owner for the work on the owner’s property. A construction manager may be included within the definition of a general contractor.
A subcontractor under a statute regarding mechanics’ liens is the person who enters into a contract with a general contractor for a specific portion of the work on an owner’s property. Such work may include excavation, air conditioning and heating, electrical, or plumbing work. The subcontractor does not have to enter into a contract with the owner in order to be entitled to a mechanics’ lien.
A supplier under a statute regarding mechanics’ liens is any person who furnishes material or supplies to a general contractor or a subcontractor for an owner’s property.
Some states allow employees of a general contractor to assert a mechanics’ lien against an owner’s property for their unpaid wages. In those states, the employees are considered as subcontractors. Whether the employees are entitled to a lien depends upon how a court interprets the words “mechanic” and “laborer” under the state’s statutes. A mechanic is a person who performs skilled work. A laborer is a person who performs physical work that requires little skill or specialized training.
Some states permit architects and design professionals to claim a mechanics’ lien for their services. In those states, the architects and the design professionals are considered as general contractors. However, if an architect or a design professional only prepares plans and specifications without any work being done on an owner’s premises, the architect or the design professional may not be entitled to the lien.