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Understanding Your Lien Rights in Tennessee

There are specific requirements for prime contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers in Tennessee when it comes to securing lien rights. If you haven’t been paid on a project, you should consult a Knoxville construction lien lawyer. There are certain aspects of Tennessee lien law that you need to know before you begin working on a project. In this brief article, a Knoxville mechanics lien law attorney will catch you up to speed on the basic requirements of lien law for all Tennessee construction professionals. 

A Lien Overview for Prime Contractors

Before beginning work on a project, prime contractors are required to provide preliminary notice in the form of a Notice to Owner. Again, this is a mandatory requirement for all contractors that enter a written or oral contact to improve the property of an owner. A Notice to Owner should be sent to the owner via certified mail. 

Once a contractor in Tennessee has submitted their Notice to Owner, their preliminary lien requirements are essentially complete until they elect to enforce their lien rights by the required deadline. In order to successfully enforce a lien, the contractor must file their lien within one year of the last furnishing of labor or materials on a project. The same 12-month deadline applies to prime contractors in a direct contract who want to initiate a lawsuit to enforce a lien. Prime contractors should also note that if they want their lien to be enforceable against third parties, they need to record their lien within 90 days of the last date of furnishing labor or materials. However, Tennessee’s lien laws are complicated, and in order to effectively enforce a lien, you should consult an experienced Knoxville construction lien lawyer to learn more. 

Related: 3 Ways to Lose Your Lien Rights in Tennessee

A Lien Overview for Subcontractors

Subcontractors in Tennessee are not required to provide a Notice to Owner before work commences; however, they are not excused from preliminary notices. Subcontractors are required to provide a Notice of Nonpayment within 90 days of the last day of the month that labor and materials were provided. So if labor or materials were provided on March 10, then a Notice of Nonpayment is provided within 90 days of March 31. A separate notice is required for every month of unpaid labor or materials. A Notice of Lien must be filed within 90 days of the completion of work. Similarly, the subcontractor has 90 days from the lien’s filing to enforce their lien.   

Related: Pre-Lien Notices in Tennessee for Subcontractors

A Lien Overview for Suppliers

A Notice to Owner is required for suppliers that entered a direct contract with an owner. However, if the supplier did not enter a direct contract with an owner, the same rules apply as the requirements of a subcontractor. This means that the supplier must issue a Notice of Nonpayment within 90 days of the last day of the month that labor and materials were provided (for every unpaid month). Similarly, suppliers must file their Notice of Lien within 90 days of the completion of work. Lastly, without a direct contract with the owner, suppliers have to enforce a lien within 90 days of the filing of the lien. 

As this is a basic overview of lien laws in Tennessee, to answer any specific questions you may have about lien eligibility or enforcement, consult a construction attorney with Cotney Construction Law.   

If you would like to speak with a Knoxville mechanics lien law attorney, please contact us today.