Filing Construction Liens in Utah

May 23, 2024 4:28 pm Published by |

Introduction to Construction Liens

Construction liens, often referred to as mechanic’s liens, serve as a crucial legal tool for contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers to secure payment for labor, services, materials, or equipment furnished in the construction industry. These liens provide a form of security by attaching a claim to the property where the work was performed, ensuring that payment disputes can be resolved with legal backing.

A construction lien is a legal claim against a property that has been improved by the efforts of construction professionals but where the full payment for services has not been made. This claim ensures that contractors and suppliers have a way to enforce payment through seeking to foreclose on the property itself if necessary.

Importance in the Construction Industry

In the construction industry, liens are important to contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers as they protect their financial interests. They ensure that those who provide labor, materials, equipment, or services to enhance the value of a property, have an avenue to seek compensation for their contributions, even when project owners face financial difficulties.

Legal Basis and Functionality for a Construction Lien

Construction liens are based on state laws that recognize the unique nature of construction contributions to real estate. In Utah, these laws outline specific procedures and legal standards that must be met for a lien to be validly filed and enforced.

Impact of Construction Liens on Property Titles

Once recorded, a construction lien attaches to the property title, making it difficult for owners to sell or refinance without first addressing the lien. This provides leverage to lienholders seeking payment.

Rules and Processes for Filing Construction Liens

General Procedures

In Utah, like in many other states, the process of pursuing a construction lien involves the following three several key steps: (1), preserving your ability to file a lien by filing a preliminary notice, (2) perfecting your lien by recording a formal lien with the county recorder’s office; and (3) enforcing your lien by filing a lawsuit to foreclose on the property.

Documentation and Contract Requirements

Documentation such as contracts, invoices, and proof of service are typically required to support the claim. These documents must be meticulously maintained to successfully file a lien.

Jurisdictional Differences​​​

An understanding of the jurisdictional differences within state laws is crucial. In Utah, specific rules about the timing, documentation, and enforcement of liens can determine the success of a lien claim.

Preventing Construction Liens

Choosing the Right Contractor

To avoid potential liens, it’s important for property owners to vet general contractors thoroughly, ensuring they have a strong track record of fulfilling contractual obligations and managing their subcontractor payments.

Similarly, it is important for general contractors to vet potential clients thoroughly, in order to mitigate any potential risk of needing to file a lien later in the project. 

Contract Specifications

Clear contract terms regarding payment terms, schedules, and obligations can help in preventing misunderstandings that might lead to liens.

Payment Strategies with Joint Checks​​​

Using joint checks can be an effective strategy to ensure that payments reach all parties involved, thereby reducing the risk of unpaid subcontractors or suppliers placing liens on the property.

Preserving a Lien Claim

Time Limits and Deadlines

In Utah, in order to preserve their ability to record a lien, contractors and suppliers must timely file a preliminary notice. Failure to timely file a preliminary notice may result in a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier from being able to pursue a lien.

Required Information for Filing

A preliminary notice must include information regarding:

  • The real property where the labor, materials, equipment, or services are being furnished.
  • The owner of the real property.
  • The general contractor for the project.
  • The party with whom the person filing the preliminary notice has a contract.
  • The party filing the preliminary notice.

Process of Filing a Preliminary Notice

Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers who want to preserve their ability to record a lien at some point in the future, if necessary, must file a preliminary notice on the SCR within 20 days after beginning their work. A preliminary notice must be filed on Utah’s State Construction Registry (SCR) database. This database is available at 

Perfecting a Lien Claim

Time Limits and Deadlines

In Utah, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers have specific time frames within which they must perfect. typically within 90 days of last providing labor or materials.

Required Information for Filing

A recorded lien must include accurate details about the claimant, the property owner, the property itself, and the principal amount due. Accuracy is crucial to prevent the lien from being invalidated.

Process of Recording in County Recorder’s Office​​​

The actual filing is done at the county recorder’s office where the property is located. This includes submitting all required documents and paying applicable fees.

Enforcing a Lien

Legal Process of Enforcing Perfecting a Lien

Enforcing a lien involves taking the necessary legal steps after recording a lien filing to enforce your lien ensures it is enforceable.

Timeframe for Filing a Lawsuit

If payment is not made after recording a lien, the next step is to file a lawsuit to enforce the lien. In Utah, this must be done within 180 days after recording the lien.

Possible Outcomes and Court Judgments​​​

The outcome of such lawsuits can vary, but they may result in the forced sale of the property to satisfy the lien, or removal of the lien upon payment.

Remedies and Resolutions

Paying Off the Lien

Property owners can resolve a lien by paying the full amount claimed. This immediately releases the lien from the property title.

Legal Challenges against Liens

Property owners can dispute construction liens through legal challenges that question the validity of the lien or the accuracy of the amounts claimed. These challenges often involve proving that payments were made, services or materials were not provided as contracted, or that procedural mistakes were made during the lien filing.

Consulting Construction Attorneys for Guidance​​​

Navigating the complexities of construction lien laws can be daunting, which is why consulting with experienced construction attorneys is essential. These professionals can provide strategic advice, help in proper documentation and procedure adherence, and represent parties in disputes or negotiations related to liens.

Babcock Scott Advantage:

Working through filing a construction lien in Utah can be complicated. The attorneys at Babcock Scott and Babcock are here to help ensure that you and your crew get paid for the hard work that you have put into a job!


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