Errors in Mechanic's Lien Preparation Will Not Always Be Forgiven By Courts

posted by Michael R. Fortney  |  Dec 23, 2014 12:26 PM in Construction Law:Mechanic's Liens, Attested Accounts, and Bonds

Ohio courts have been all over the map when it comes to enforcement of the Ohio Mechanic's Lien Law. Some courts, as in a recent Ohio Court of Appeals case, have allowed parties to fix harmless errors without invalidating the lien, while other courts have required strict compliance with every aspect of the statute.

The Ohio Mechanic's Lien Law creates the possibility that owners must pay twice for work done on their property, once to the original party who contracted with the owner, and once to the subcontractor who hasn't been paid and files a mechanic's lien. Since courts do not like to require this double payment, strict compliance with the statute is often required.

Courts have invalidated liens for a variety of reasons related to strict compliance with the statute, such as naming the wrong party as owner, failing to amend a sworn statement before expiration of the time to file, or failing to support lien against a railroad company with a list of itemized charges.

However, in Burroughs Framing Specialists, Inc. v. 5050 W. Main St., LLC the Sixth District Court of Appeals held that an obvious clerical error, using 2012 as the year instead of 2011, was a harmless error that did not require the court to invalidate the lien. The party’s lien affidavit listed a date in 2012 as the last date of work on the project, however the lien was filed in early 2012 and the date listed on the affidavit was in the future and had yet to occur. The court held that this was clearly a harmless error.

Other instances in which Ohio courts have affirmed the validity of mechanic's liens with typographical errors include altering the name of the owner, such as Gaff Estate instead of Rachel Gaff Homes, and using the owner’s incorrect address when the opposing party was still put on notice even though the address was incorrect.

Even though some typographical errors and other mistakes in the preparation and submission of mechanic's liens were not detrimental to the lien, since courts have invalidated other liens on very similar grounds, it is in the best interests of any party securing a mechanic's lien to make sure that the lien strictly complies with the Ohio Mechanic's Lien Law.

Even in a case such as Burroughs the lien was only found to be valid after over two years of court battles and a trip to the Court of Appeals. These expenses are much more costly than hiring someone to prepare the mechanic's lien properly from the outset.

If you would like to speak to an attorney about mechanic's lien preparation or you would simply like more information about employment and labor issues please visit our website


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