To answer your question about whether a mechanics lien is worth it, my immediate and unequivocal answer is yes. In fact, with a debt this size, it's a great idea to file a lien.
Filing a mechanics lien is fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost and trouble of litigation (even small claims court). Even though the cost is pretty low, the benefit can be huge. Liens are very effective at getting property owners to crack open their wallets.
Small claims court or litigation may be inevitable...no one can say. But a mechanics lien filing is a smart choice. It's a smart way to escalate the dispute without dumping too much money into it.
Here is an article I wrote about why liens are so effective: 17 Ways A Mechanics Lien Works To Get You Paid.
You ask if you have to renew the lien every year. The answer is no. In fact, Georgia liens cannot be renewed or extended.n they will expire after 1 year. They are usually paid off long before this, but if they are not, you can file an enforcement lawsuit before the expiration to keep it alive. It most likely wont come to this.
You can file a mechanics lien through a service like Zlien.com, which charges a reasonable $295 flat fee.
My Mechanics Lien Filing Service at www.zlien.com. Our number is 866-720-5436. Avvo's terms and conditions apply, answers on Avvo are general responses to hypothetical scenarios presented by questioner.
The Georgia Right to Repair Act gives a contractor the right to repair work that a homeowner claims to be defective. There is a helpful explanation of this law at this site: http://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-topics/right-to-repair-act. A lien filing certainly would be appropriate under these circumstances, assuming that you have substantially completed your work and are within 90 days of the last day that you supplied labor or material to the job. While you are within your rights to make a lien filing, I recommend that you try sending a certified letter to the owner enclosing your bill and requesting immediate payment. Be polite, factual, and firm in the letter. Set a deadline for payment. If that letter does not get you paid, then I recommend filing suit in Magistrate Court in the county where the owner resides. Shortly after the owner files an answer the court will send out a notice giving you the opportunity to mediate your dispute. Mediation is a great way to resolve a dispute like this. Mediation is non-binding but it has a very high success rate in achieving settlements. If your owner won't pay after a certified letter, won't pay after a Magistrate Court filing, and she refuses to mediate, then you will have to go to court and make your case in Magistrate Court. It sounds like you want to avoid litigation. Sometimes the filing of a lien gets the attention of the owner and you get paid in full, but probably equally often liens just make the owner mad and add yet another level of complexity to a dispute. It requires several very specific steps to properly perfect and foreclose a lien, and almost certainly you will have to hire a lawyer to help you handle this properly. Be aware that on a small claim the legal expense of perfecting a lien can quickly exceed the amount in dispute, and will almost certainly eat up any profit that you have in a small job. On balance, I think that a certified letter followed by a Magistrate Court filing is probably your best and least expensive way to resolve this dispute. It sounds like you want a simple, quick resolution of the dispute, not more complexity. There are lots of good construction lawyers in Marietta who will be glad to help you think through your options. It is worth talking to one if only to map out a good strategy for you to get paid.
You already have two excellent answers that I agree with, so I'll try to add something that didn't cover. As a long term consideration, if you have never filed a lien before or had someone file one for you, this could be a good experience. You can learn the details of filing and perfecting the lien, and and be ready the next time you need one filed.
I often advise clients, "The threat can be more powerful than the doing." That is, the threat of a lien [if the owner fears one] may get you more action than just going ahead and filing it. Many home loans provide that a lien is an event of default on the loan unless the homeowner gets the lien removed from the property within a certain time, often pretty short.
The single most important thing to track when considering a lien filing is the deadline. If you have enough time left, you can figure the rest out, including figuring out whether there's a way to pressure the owner with the demand letter and still have time left to file your lien.
Finally, if you are a contractor who may not get paid on every job, you should consider hiring a construction lawyer to establish a regular relationship. For one thing, that lawyer can help you develop a simple contract to use with owners that provides that if you don't get paid you can charge the owner (1) the cost of filing a lien, (2) the cost of filing in court and (3) attorneys' fees. There are likely some other helpful things your lawyer can help you build into your contract form to protect you every time you do a job. Good luck!