Mechanics Liens in Missouri and your Property Rights
The Missouri Mechanics' Lien Law is defined in Chapter 429 of the Missouri Revised Statutes and the remedies are a little different for general contractors and subcontractors. General Contractors. 1. The general contractor is a contractor or supplier who deals directly with the owner. At the inception of the job, a general contractor must give the owner a notice in ten point bold type. Without this, you will NOT have any lien rights. Failure to include this notice is fatal if you are the general contractor dealing with the owner. Deadlines for general contractors (you dealt directly with the owner). The lien must be filed within 180 days no matter what. This is a strict limitation and you lose your lien if you miss this date. The six months (actually 180 days) begins from the last date that labor was performed or materials were supplied on the project, and this does not include minor repairs, punch-list, or follow-up work Subcontractors (you were hired not by the actual owner) You qualify as a subcontractor if you are hired by anyone except the owner to do work or provide materials on a jobsite. Even if you normally act as a general contractor, you can qualify as a subcontractor if you are really providing labor or provide materials for someone else who is working directly for the owner. This status gives you an additional deadline -- to send out a Notice of lien at least 10 days before you file the actual lien. Deadlines for subcontractors. A subcontractor must first serve the owner with at least ten days notice of intent to file that lien. And of course there must be enough time left so the mechanic’s lien itself is still filed within the 180 days. A subcontractor and supplier therefore have two deadlines. The 180 days to file a lien begins running from the same date - the last date that labor was performed or materials were supplied on the project, not including minor repairs, punch-list, or follow-up work. But, at least 10 days before the "six months" runs out, you serve the Notice. Warnings to subcontractors for owner-occupied property. This applies only to owner-occupied residential property of four units or less. If you qualify as a subcontractor, and it is owner-occupied residential property of four units or less, be sure to get a copy of the general contractor’s contract with the owner before you begin your work. You can later file a lien only if the owner agrees in writing by contract to be liable for such costs in the event you are not paid. Look for the signed “Owner’s Consent" on the general contractor’s contract. The Owner’s Consent must be printed in ten point bold type and signed separately from the notice of lien rights mentioned above. If joint owners, only one has to sign. Then a copy of the signed Consent Form must be attached to the lien for recording purposes. The statute does require the original contractor (who contracts directly with the owner) to give you a copy of the owner's signed "consent," but only if you request it. If you do not have that Owner’s Consent form signed: If the owner has made full payment to the contractor, even if the contractor did not pay you, then you can not file a lien. Full payment by the owner to with the contractor will be a complete defense to all liens filed by any materialmen or supplier. Partial payment to the contractor itself acts as an offset to the extent of such payment. For added protection, you should add the Owner’s Consent to all your contracts and/or to the back of your short forms (invoices, shipping forms, delivery forms) with a signature line to be signed by the owner. Then if you qualify as a subcontractor and if the general contractor does not have a written agreement with the owner, or if the Consent is not on the general contractor’s agreement, you should get your own form signed before you begin work or deliver materials. Residential property - SPECIAL OBLIGATIONS - 2010 Missouri Amendments: If an Owner of residential property enters into a contract for improvements in order to facilitate the owner's sale of such property and the owner records a Notice of Intended Sale with the Recorder of Deeds of that County, then the Contractor MUST record a Notice of Mechanic’s Lien Rights to preserve his rights against the buyer. Here is how it works: 1. The owner records a notice of intended sale with the Recorder of Deeds; 2. This is done at least 45 calendar days before the earliest calendar date the owner intends to close; 3. The notice must state the calendar date on which the owner intends to close. [Only one notice of intended sale shall be recorded, even if the intended date of closing is postponed] 4. The owner must post on the property, or at an entrance to the property, or at any jobsite office located at or near the property, a copy of the owner's Notice of Intended Sale. 5. The owner must provide any Claimant with a copy of the Notice of Intended Sale and a copy of a legal description of the subject property, within five calendar days after a Claimant’s written request. [The owner’s failure to post or mail the notice, however, would not relieve the contractor of the obligation to record its own Notice] Then, if the Notice of the Owner is recorded, the Contractor must record his own Notice at least five (5) days before the intended date of sale of the property. The problem arises that a Contractor may not know the Owner’s notice has been recorded. Therefore, prudent practice would be that unless it is obvious the owner intends to remain a resident, then the Contractor should assume the property is being improved for purposes of sale. When in doubt, the Contractor should send a written request to the owner for a copy of any Owner’s Notice of Intended Sale. And must send a copy of that Notice to the Owner if it receives a written request for it, within ten (10) days. Next deadline - the suit to enforce A second 180 day deadline: No later than 180 days after the lien is filed, you must file suit to enforce it. The lien is not self-enforcing. It expires 180 days later if suit is not filed.
You might take a risk and file the lien yourself but the documents to be attached are so technical that you really should hire an attorney to handle the entire lien project once it appears that you will not be paid promptly. Certainly you should use an attorney to file the suit later.
One final warning, do NOT file a Mechanics Lien just to try to shake money from tree, knowing it is defective. You will be exposed to a serious claim from the property owner of "clouding the title" to the real estate. This claim may carry not only actual damages but punitive damages against you as well.