A mechanic’s lien is a useful tool that, when filed properly, adds crucial protections to contractors and sub-contractors. The liens allow these groups to secure their work and avoid problems that arise when payments aren’t made as agreed to. In Oklahoma, if the contract is signed with the owner of the building/property then the lien may be against the actual property/building itself. If the contract is not with the owner then the lien may only be against the portion of the actual work itself.
However, one filed outside of the constraints prescribed by law will be regarded as frivolous by the project owner or developer. This is sometimes referred to as a fictitious or invalid lien.
Generally, a lien is deemed frivolous if there is no reasonable cause for its filing or there is no reasonable argument that the lien claim is valid. It’s important to spot when this situation is present so the protections aren’t abused.
- A mechanic’s lien that is filed after the deadline. There are notice deadlines in Oklahoma. For contractors, the deadline is 120 days after the last date that work or furnishings were completed on the job. For subcontractors, the deadline is 90 days after the last date that work or furnishings were completed on the job. Any filings after this date will generally be deemed frivolous and dismissed without an extension.
- Enforcing a lien outside of the one-year period. The lien must be enforced within a year of the filing but cannot be enforced until at least 90 days after the lien notice was officially filed. If a contractor or subcontractors attempts to enforce the lien beyond this one-year window will be deemed frivolous.
- Attempting to collect unrelated fees and charges. If you are filing a mechanic’s lien, the amount you request must only be for unpaid labor. Attorney’s fees and other peripheral charges may not be included. Those fees can potentially be recovered in a successful foreclosure but not through filing a mechanic’s lien.
- Filing incorrect information in your lien. Oklahoma law requires that your mechanic’s lien have a specific and legal description of the property, the work, the payment failure, the names of those who worked without being paid, and other information specific to the project and issue at hand. If this information is missing or incorrect you may have an opportunity to amend the order, but a failure to provide the correct information could disrupt the lien entirely.
- Filing a lien if you are unlicensed. If you are filing a lien, you must be licensed to do business in Oklahoma for your claim to be valid. Unfortunately, this trickles down to subcontractors; if the general contractor is unlicensed, the subs do not have legal standing to file a mechanic’s lien.
Intentional vs. Honest Mistake
There are discrepancies that exist on whether certain lien claims should be designated as frivolous or invalid. A mechanic’s lien claimant might genuinely not be aware that the deadline for filing or other requirements. However, most licensed contractors should know the guidelines or research them prior to filing. If it can be proven to be intentional, that contractor could face charges. The process and requirements for filing a valid mechanic’s lien are complicated, and there is usually no leeway given for honest mistakes. If you are facing an issue with a lien you filed, or you want to make sure you are filing one properly, contact Pence Law Firm to protect your hard work.