How to File a Lien When Your Employer Doesn't Pay

by Michelle Hogan ; Updated July 27, 2017

Work is hard enough without the hassle of trying to collect pay that's rightfully owed to you. If you are having trouble collecting pay that you earned either as an employee or a subcontractor, there are steps you can take to get your money. If you wish to continue working for the employer and believe an oversight was made, simply let your employer know about the issue and bring any related documentation to his attention. If, however, your employer is skirting the issue, you may want to find other work and file a lien against his real estate or business property.

Step 1

Request your money politely in a letter or by phone or email. Remind you employer of the amount owed and when you expected to receive payment. If you have an agreement, remind the employer of that as well.

Step 2

Make notes of every conversation you have with your employer regarding the owed money.

Step 3

Check with your state regulations or licensing board and make sure you are legally allowed to file a lien if you are a subcontractor and not an employee. To file a builder's lien against a property you worked on, you need to have a contractor or subcontractor license and be properly bonded and insured if the law in your state requires it.

Step 4

File a claim in small claims court against your employer. This is usually a simple procedure, where you go to the county courthouse and file the appropriate papers. If you go to the scheduled court hearing and prove that the money is owed to you, you can usually receive your judgment for back pay. Some states require you to win a judgment in court before you can file a lien against a property.

Step 5

Let your employer know that you have won a judgment against him and respectfully request payment. Let him know in a polite manner that you intend to file a lien against the property or his business property if payment is not made.

Step 6

File for your lien with your county clerk's office or auditor or through a lawyer if you aren't paid. In many states this is called the claim of lien, and it announces your lien to the public. In addition to filing the form with the county clerk, you must send a copy of the lien by certified mail to the owner of the business or home. If you are filing a lien against business property, such as machines or vehicles, you should mail it to your state's Secretary of State or other designated office.

Step 7

Serve your former employer with the notice of the lien by mail or in person through a professional process server or sheriff.

Step 8

Wait for your employer to either pay off the debt or try and sell the property to which you have attached a lien. If your employer sells the property, you will receive your money from the proceeds of the sale.

About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.