This blog is part of an ongoing series discussing the Pennsylvania Mechanics’ Lien Law. For more information on Mechanics’ Liens in Pennsylvania, click here.
Often times, Demolition contractors and Landscaping contractors will ask whether their services and the materials used in their trades constitute a proper basis for a Mechanics’ Lien Claim in order to preserve a likelihood of payment. Knowing what is, and what is not properly lienable work and materials is something that every contractor should be mindful of when assessing different jobs.
Mechanics’ Liens have been traditionally closely associated with the improvements (i.e. the buildings or like structures) to real property much more than the land itself. Early cases found Mechanics’ Liens extinguished due to the accidental destruction of a structure in a fire or flood, reasoning that the improvements had been removed and with them the contractor’s right to a Lien for work performed. Subsequent to these early cases, the Mechanics’ Lien procedure was codified by statute, which defined a contractor as “one who, by contract with the owner, express or implied, erects, constructs, alters or repairs an improvement or any part thereof . . .” Therefore, the right to Lien does not traditionally attach to land per se.
This concept is important in order to understand when attempting to figure whether certain work – including demolition, excavation, and landscaping falls within the above definition. In an attempt to guide contractors, the Mechanics’ Lien Law provides that “erection, construction, alteration, or repair includes . . . [d]emolition, removal of improvements, excavation, grading, paving and landscaping when such work is incidental to the erection, construction, alteration or repair.” Therefore, under this definition, demolition of a structure or part of a structure for the purpose of erecting a new structure or addition is most likely the proper subject of a Lien Claim, whereas the demolition of a structure simply to clear the property most likely cannot give rise to a proper Lien Claim. Landscaping contractors will similarly find that their Lien rights are strongest when they provide services and materials to finish new construction, but that the very same services and materials around an existing structure probably will not give rise to a proper Lien Claim.