Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Mechanic's Lien Definition:

A statutory charge on real property arising from labor or material supplied to improve upon it.

Related Terms: Builders' Lien, Lien, Statutory Lien

A remedy not known to the common law although a feature of the civil law and civil codes since the epoch of their ancestor in law, Roman law.

Mechanic's lien is a term which came about in a pre-automobile era where manual or skilled laborers were generally known as mechanics.

The first statute to address the difficulty facing laborers unable to afford to enforce their claim in contract and debt was that of Maryland in 1791, directed at the construction of the planned city of Washington. Pennsylvania was next, in 1803.

Concrete worker imageSince then, to promote urban construction, most common law jurisdictions in North America have mechanic lien legislation albeit the nomenclature varies considerably. Some call it a mechanic lien as in Mechanic Lien Act. Other prefer the term builders lien and still others, a construction lien.

In his 1897 edition of Bouvier's Law Dictionary, the author explains that:

"Mechanics liens ... exists in all of the United States by statue, to a greater or lesser extent. Each state has its own mechanics' lien law, differing often in minor particulars, but alike in the general provisions.

"In most of the states, this lien is equal to that of a ... mortgage and can be assigned and enforced in a similar manner.

"The lien affects only real estate."


Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Builders' Lien

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