Contractors – Construction Liens – New York
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of New York’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 file a lien in this State?
New York law permits “A contractor, subcontractor, laborer, materialman, landscape gardener, nurseryman or person or corporation selling fruit or ornamental trees, roses, shrubbery, vines and small fruits, who performs labor or furnishes materials for the improvement of real property with the consent or at the request of the owner thereof, or of his agent, contractor or subcontractor, and any trust fund to which benefits and wage supplements are due or payable for the benefit of such laborers, shall have a lien for the principal and interest, of the value, or the agreed price, of such labor, including benefits and wage supplements due or payable for the benefit of any laborer, or materials upon the real property improved or to be improved and upon such improvement, from the time of filing a notice of such lien…” N.Y. Lien Law §3.
How long does a party have to file a lien?
“Notice of lien may be filed at anytime during the progress of the work and the furnishing of the materials, or, within eight months after the completion of the contract, or the final performance of the work, or the final furnishing of the materials, dating from the last item of work performed or materials furnished; provided, however, that where the improvement is related to real property improved or to be improved with a single family dwelling, the notice of lien may be filed at any time during the progress of the work and the furnishing of the materials, or, within four months after the completion of the contract, or the final performance of the work, or the final furnishing of the materials, dating from the last item of work performed or materials furnished. N.Y. Lien Law §10.
What kind of notice is required prior to filing a lien?
Within five days before or thirty days after filing the notice of lien, the lienor shall serve a copy of such notice upon the owner, if a natural person, (a) by delivering the same to him personally, or if the owner cannot be found, to his agent or attorney, or (b) by leaving it at his last known place of residence in the city or town in which the real property or some part thereof is situated, with a person of suitable age and discretion, or (c) by registered or certified mail addressed to his last known place of residence, or (d) if such owner has no such residence in such city or town, or cannot be found, and he has no agent or attorney, by affixing a copy thereof conspicuously on such property, between the hours of nine o’clock in the forenoon and four o’clock in the afternoon; if the owner be a corporation, said service shall be made (i) by delivering such copy to and leaving the same with the president, vice-president, secretary or clerk to the corporation, the cashier, treasurer or a director or managing agent thereof, personally, within the state, or (ii) if such officer cannot be found within the state by affixing a copy thereof conspicuously on such property between the hours of nine o’clock in the forenoon and four o’clock in the afternoon, or (iii) by registered or certified mail addressed to its last known place of business. Failure to file proof of such a service with the county clerk within thirty-five days after the notice of lien is filed shall terminate the notice as a lien.” N.Y. Lien Law §10.
How long is a lien good for?
Any lien created under New York law shall be a lien for a period longer than one year after the notice of lien has been filed, unless within that time an action is commenced to foreclose the lien, ….” or the appropriate steps are taken to request that the court grant an extension. N.Y. Lien Law §17.
Are liens assignable?
Yes. New York statutes provide for the assignment of valid liens. The assignment must be in writing and acknowledged by the lien holder. N.Y. Lien Law §13.
Does this State require or provide for a notice from subcontractors and laborers to property owners?
Yes. A contractor working on a public improvement may issue a written demand that a state agency provide a notice of completion and acceptance. Also, a subcontractor or other party who furnishes labor and or materials for the improvement of property may issue a demand to the owner or contractor demanding that the owner or contractor provide a statement of the terms of the contract between the owner and the contractor.
Does this State require or provide for a notice from the property owner to the contractor, subcontractor, or laborers?
Yes. Under New York law a property owner who’s property has been the subject of a notice of lien may demand in writing that the lien claimant provide an itemized statement of the labor and/or materials provided and their value.
Does this State require a notice prior to starting work, or after work has been completed?
No. New York statutes do not require a Notice of Commencement or a Notice of Completion as in some other States.
Does this State permit a person with an interest in property to deny responsibility for improvements?
No. New York statutes do not have a provision which permits the denial of responsibility for improvements.
Is a notice attesting to the satisfaction of a lien provided for or required?
No. New York statutes do not provide for or require that a lien holder who has been paid produce or file a notice to that effect.
By what method does the law of this State permit the release of a lien?
A lien claimed under New York law may be discharged by the issuing of a certificate by the lien holder, filed in the court where the lien notice was filed, acknowledging the satisfaction and release of said lien. Otherwise, the lien will dissolve automatically within one year of filing if no legal action is taken to foreclose on said lien.
Does this State permit the use of a bond to release a lien?
Yes. New York law permits a party with an interest in the property in question to file a bond in the amount unpaid under the contract.