State legislatures passed construction laws in part to protect contractors and subcontractors from nonpayment of services provided. To secure payment, the contractor files a “claim of lien” against the owner’s property. With a valid claim of lien, the contractor, also referred to as a the “lien-holder,” can initiate an action against the owner, also referred to as the “debtor,” for payment. If necessary, the court can order the property sold, and the proceeds would be used to pay for the labor and materials provided.
Assemble the Important Information
Gather the following information: the names and addresses of the debtor and the lien-holder, the legal description of the debtor’s property, the total amount of the lien, payment amounts and dates made to the lien-holder by the debtor and a description of the work performed by the lien-holder. If you made photos of your work, particularly before-and-after photos, these may be invaluable to help prove your claim.
Obtain the Claim of Lien Form
If a person or business has not paid you for work you performed, visit the property records office in the county where the property is situated. Ask the clerk for a blank “Claim of Lien” form. Forms may also be available on the Internet by performing a search for your county's online forms.
Complete the Form
Write the required information on the lines provided by the form. For example, write the county where the property is situated at the top of the page on the line provided for county. Write the property’s legal description in the space provided after the words “on the following described real property.” Do not sign the form.
Find and Visit a Notary Public
Take the completed form to a notary public. Sign the form in the presence of the notary. The notary will prescribe her seal in the space provided on the bottom of the form.
File the Claim of Lien Form
File the completed and notarized form at the property records office located in the county where the property is situated. Each county has its own procedures, so check with your county clerk to make sure you comply with the form filing requirements. For example, even the time frames vary among counties. For example, in North Carolina, if you're the claimant who improved a site, you'll need to file your claim any time after the obligation's maturity but less than 120 days after labor and materials are furnished to the site.