To Lien or Not to Lien - Do I Qualify for a Mechanic's Lien?

posted by Michael Fortney  |  Jan 7, 2015 07:35 AM in Construction Law:Mechanic's Liens, Attested Accounts, and Bonds

We are often asked "Can I file a lien?" for some new and different issues - such as "Can I file a lien for my surveying work?"  Although mechanic's lien laws have been on the books in Ohio for almost 200 years, the answer is not always clear cut and depends on the type of service performed or materials provided and the statutory definitions of "materials" and "improvement" as interpreted by the courts.

Broadly speaking, Ohio law provides that every person who performs any labor or work upon or furnishes "material" in furtherance of any "improvement" has a lien to secure the payment upon the improvement.  "Materials" means "all products and substances" and by statute specifically includes items such as gasoline, dynamite, tools, equipment, and machinery furnished in furtherance of a "improvement." 

"Improvement" in turn means "constructing, erecting, altering, repairing, demolishing, or removing any building or appurtenance thereto, fixture, bridge, or other structure, and any gas pipeline or well" and by statute includes such diverse things as furnishing drain tile; removal of hazardous material or waste; the enhancement of real property by seeding, sodding, or the planting of shrubs, trees, vines, small fruits, flowers, or nursery stock of any kind; and the grading or filling to establish a grade.

While the statutory definitions are quite specific to certain types of materials and improvement work, the definitions are not meant to be all inclusive.  This has lead owners, contractors, and suppliers to ask what is or is not proper subject matter for a lien.  Below is a summary of types of materials and work which by statute or by case law have been determined to be proper lien subject matter.






  R.C. 1311.02


  Yes, but only for on-sight work

  Sears & Roebuck Co. v. J-Z Realty


  Yes, but only for on-sight work

  Integrated Architecture, LLC v. New

  Heights Gymnastics



  Kline v. Federal Ins. Co.,

  Demolition work


  R.C. 1311.01(D)



  R.C. 1311.01 (J); Modern Shower

  Door Co. v. Buckeye Pool

  Enclosure, Inc.

Rubbish removal

  Yes, for cleanup and removal

  of hazardous material or waste

  and as part of demolition

  R.C. 1311.01(J)


  Sidewalk repairs


  R.C. 1311.03

  Oil or gas well work


  R.C 1311.021

  Delivered, but

  unincorporated materials 


  R.C. 1311.12(A)(1)

  Specifically fabricated, but

  undelivered materials

  Yes, if not resalable

  R.C. 1311.12(A)(3)

  Tools or machinery

  Yes, but only if purchased for

  project and have no substantial

  value after project completion

  R.C. 1311.12(A)(5)

  Rented tools or machinery

  Yes, but only for the reasonable

  rental value for the period of

  actual use

  R.C. 1311.12(C)(1)

For more information on the scope of Ohio Mechanic's Lien Law and how to preserve and protect your lien rights, contact the construction lawyers at Fortney & Klingshirn.  

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