Determine If You Have The Right to File The Lien
Generally, Louisiana is a non-notice state. This means those who furnish labor or materials to a construction project are are not required to deliver pre-lien notices to preserve their lien rights. There are some exceptions: (1) General Contractors on projects that cost more than $25,000 must record a Notice of Contract before work begins; (2) Material Suppliers must deliver a Notice of Non-Payment to the Owner 10 days before liening; (3) Equipment Lessors must deliver a copy of the lease to the Owner within 10 days of furnishing equipment; and (4) on Residential Improvement Contracts, the party contracting with the Owner-Occupier must deliver a Notice of Lien Rights before work beings. Remember also the general requirement that you must have furnished labor and/or materials to a construction improvement, and be unpaid.
Produce the Lien Document with Required Content
Now it's time to produce the lien document. There are strict requirements about what your lien must say: (1) It must be in writing, and signed by the person asserting the claim (or person's agent); (2) It must identify the property being liened (this typically requires the use of a legal property description). A lien will be considered invalid if it only contains a street address to identify the liened property. (3) Identify the amount due, and describe the work or materials furnished that gives rise to the amount due. Be careful because there are a lot of details left ambiguous by these requirements, and its very easy to make a mistake. It's worth considering using a lien system or service, like Zlien to handle this for you.
Timely Record Lien with the Proper Recording Office
The next step is to timely record your lien. Normally, all claimants have 60 days from the substantial completion of the project to file the lien. This period can be shortened to 30 days for subcontractors and others who did not contract with the owner, if a "Notice of Termination" is filed by the owner or contractor at the termination of work (30-days from Notice filing) In Louisiana, every Parish has a designed office that records property instruments. In some Parishes, it is the Clerk of Court office, and in others, there is a specific Recorder of Mortgages. Your lien must be recorded in the proper office. There will be a filing fee to record your lien, which is usually between $30 - $90. There are also strict formatting requirements that you must meet to have your document indexed (i.e. the size of the paper, the font, etc.), which varies by parish.
Send Notices and Prepare to File Suit if Not Paid
After recording your lien, send a copy to the property owner and all other interested parties. Liens remain valid and enforceable in Louisiana for 1 year from the date of filing. At any time within that 1 year period, you can file a lawsuit to "enforce" your lien. The lawsuit can be filed against the property owner, the party you contracted with, and the prime contractor. If you file the suit timely, your lien will remain enforceable during the entire time the suit is on-going. If you win the lawsuit, you can convert your lien to a more permanent judgment. If you do not file the suit timely, your lien will expire. Your rights to recover the unpaid amount will be limited by contract (i.e. who you contracted with).