Tennessee Construction Lien Law


Contractors – Construction Liens – Tennessee

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of Tennessee’s construction or mechanic’s lien laws, but does include basic provisions.

What is a construction or mechanic’s lien?

Every State permits a person who supplies labor or materials for a construction project to claim a lien against the improved property.  While some states differ in their definition of improvements and some states limit lien claims to buildings or structures, most permit the filing of a document with the local court that puts parties interested in the property on notice that the party asserting the lien has a claim.  States differ widely in the method and time within which a party may act on their lien.  Also varying widely are the requirements of written notices between property owners, contractors, subcontractors and laborers, and in some cases lending institutions.  As a general rule, these statutes serve to prevent unpleasant surprises by compelling parties who wish to assert their legal rights to put all parties who might be interested in the property on notice of a claim or the possibility of a claim.  This by no means constitutes a complete discussion of construction lien law and should not be interpreted as such.  Parties seeking to know more about construction laws in their State should always consult their State statutes directly.

Who can claim a lien in this State?

There shall be a lien upon any lot of ground or tract of land upon which a house or structure has been erected, demolished, altered, or repaired, or for fixtures or machinery furnished or erected, or improvements made, by special contract with the owner or the owner’s agent, in favor of the contractor, mechanic, laborer, founder or machinist, who does the work or any part of the work, or furnishes the materials or any part of the materials, or puts thereon any fixtures, machinery, or material, and in favor of all persons who do any portion of the work or furnish any portion of the materials for such building; provided, that the subcontractor, laborer or materialman satisfies all of the requirements set forth in § 66-11-145, if applicable.

How long is a lien good for?

The lien shall include the building, structure, fixture, or improvement as well as the lot or land, and continue for one (1) year after the work is finished or materials are furnished, and until the final decision of any suit that may be brought within that time for its enforcement.

Does this State require or provide for a notice from subcontractors and laborers to property owners?

Yes.  Any person claiming a lien for labor or materials upon the property described in the notice of completion who has not previously registered such person’s contract as provided in § 66-11-111 or registered a sworn statement as provided in § 66-11-112 or § 66-11-117 shall send by registered or certified mail written notice addressed to the person, firm or organization and at the address designated in the notice of completion for receiving notice of claims, stating the amount of the claim and certifying that the claim does not include any amount owed to the claimant on any other job or under other contract.

A mechanic’s lien shall have precedence over all other subsequent liens or conveyances during such time; provided, that a sworn statement of the amount due and/or approximating that to accrue for such work, labor, or materials, and a reasonably certain description of the premises, shall be filed, within the ninety-day period referred to in § 66-11-115(b).

In order to be protected from lien claims which have not previously been registered as provided in §§ 66-11-111, 66-11-112, and 66-11-117, the owner or purchaser of improved real property may, upon completion of the improvement or the demolition thereof, register in the office of the register of deeds in the county where the real property or any affected part thereof is located a notice of completion, or the owner or purchaser may require a person or organization with whom the owner or purchaser has contracted for the improvements or demolition to do so upon completion of the structure or improvement or demolition.

Does this State require or provide for a notice from the property owner to the contractor, subcontractor, or laborers?

A filing for record is required to be done within ninety (90) days after the building or structure or improvement is demolished, altered and/or completed, as the case may be, or is abandoned and the work not completed, or the contract of the lienor expires or is terminated or the lienor is discharged, prior to which time the lien shall be effective as against such purchasers or encumbrancers without such registration; provided, that the owner shall give thirty (30) days’ notice to contractors and to all of those lienors who have filed notice in accordance with § 66-11-145 prior to the owner’s transfer of any interest to a subsequent purchaser or encumbrancer for a valuable consideration.

Does this State require a notice prior to starting work, or after work has been completed?

In order to be protected from lien claims which have not previously been registered as provided in §§ 66-11-111, 66-11-112, and 66-11-117, the owner or purchaser of improved real property may, upon completion of the improvement or the demolition thereof, register in the office of the register of deeds in the county where the real property or any affected part thereof is located a notice of completion, or the owner or purchaser may require a person or organization with whom the owner or purchaser has contracted for the improvements or demolition to do so upon completion of the structure or improvement or demolition.

Does this State permit a person with an interest in property to deny responsibility for improvements?

Yes.  The owner of any such building or structure in process of erection or being altered or repaired, other than the person by whom or in whose behalf a contract for labor or materials has been made, may prevent the attaching of any lien for labor thereon not at the time performed or materials not then furnished by giving notice, in writing, to the person performing or furnishing such labor or furnishing such materials that he will not be responsible therefor.

Is a notice attesting to the satisfaction of a lien provided for or required?

Yes.  In fact, Tennessee law provides that a property owner may issue a written demand to a lien claimant who’s lien has been satisfied that the lien claimant execute and file an acknowledgment of lien.

Does this State permit the use of a bond to release a lien?

Yes.  If a lien, other than a lien granted in a written contract, is fixed or is attempted to be fixed by a recorded instrument under this chapter, any person may record a bond to indemnify against the lien.  Such bond shall be recorded with the register of deeds of the county in which the lien was filed. Such bond shall be for the amount of the lien claimed with corporate surety authorized and admitted to do business in the state of Tennessee and licensed by the state of Tennessee to execute bonds as surety, and such bond shall be conditioned upon the obligor’s satisfying any judgment that may be rendered in favor of the person asserting the lien.  The bond shall state the book and page or other reference and the office where the lien is of record.  The recording by the register of a bond to indemnify against a lien shall operate as a discharge of the lien.  After recording the bond, the register shall return the original bond to the person providing the bond. The register shall index the recording of the bond to indemnify against the lien in the same manner as a release of lien.  The person asserting the lien may make the obligors on the bond parties to any action to enforce the claim, and any judgment recovered may be against all or any of the obligors on the bond.