In Texas there are laws that protect workers who work on property such as cars, equipment or real property. Those laws give workers liens against the property. The liens are commonly known as mechanics liens. In the construction industry, the person that contracts with the property owner is known as the original contractor. Sometimes a property owner or an original contractor, or even a subcontractor, will only pay the worker if the worker has gone to the trouble of taking all of the steps to create a mechanics lien claim.
For example, suppose a worker provides materials and /or services to work on someone's car, home, land or building. If the owner refuses to pay the worker, then the worker can send legal notices and file lien claims with the County Clerk's office. Once that is done, then the property has a lien claim against it. The property owner can only remove that lien claim by paying the worker or litigating in court.
Rules to RememberWhat many workers do not realize is that, in lien claim cases, there is a rule of substantial completion. So even if the worker does not do the work exactly perfect, the worker can still make a lien claim. In that situation the lien claim still attaches to the property, but the amount of the lien claim may be reduced.
Also, it is important for workers to understand that if they are working for months on a job, then the worker must send the notices and file the documents with the County Clerk's office for each month worked.
A worker may also want to take some extra precautions before working on a property owner's residence, which may be known as homestead property. Before beginning work on someone's residence, a worker should provide the owner and the owner's spouse with a notice about the possibily of lien claim. This is commonly done by adding some extra wording to the worker's contract and having the owner and the owner's spouse sign the contract containing the notice.
In Texas, if the worker makes a valid lien claim, then the worker can recover attorney's fees from the property owner and / or the original contractor and / or the subcontractor that hired the worker. So, even if the worker has to spend some money to make the mechanics lien claim valid, the worker can get reimbursed for those attorney's fees.
DeadlinesIn lien claim cases, there are many deadlines. There are deadlines for sending notices to the property owner and deadlines for sending notices to the original contractor, that is the person that originally contracted with the property owner. There are also deadlines for sending notices to the insurance company that provides insurance coverage for any unpaid mechanics liens.
Generally, the deadline for the worker to send the first notice to the property owner and the original contractor is the 15th day of the second month after the month in which the work is done. So, for example, if a worker does work in January, then generally, the deadline for the worker to send a notice to the property owner and to the original contractor is March 15th. That is the general rule. The deadlines must be determined on a case by case basis by an experience attorney such as myself, familiar with all of the laws and rules.