A mechanic works in a construction site.

Improvements or repairs to a home, condominium, or car take time, care, skill, and money. Contractors, subcontractors, and other workers spend a great deal of time and effort meeting an owner’s needs. Sometimes, property owners do not pay these skilled workers as promised, putting the worker’s livelihood and future in peril. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of a mechanic’s lien as a potential remedy for a skilled worker or contractor who is not paid. You may understand that a property with more than one lien may make collecting the mechanic’s lien difficult. And may need to know  does a mechanic’s lien override a bank loan or mortgage? 

Below, the TonaLaw attorneys answer some common questions about New York’s lien law and discuss the answers to the question, does a mechanic’s lien override a title loan or mortgage? We also provide some information on liens on vehicles, or garage person’s liens, and how a mechanic’s lien on a financed vehicle works.  

What Is a Mechanic’s Lien?

To understand whether a mechanic’s lien overrides a title loan or mortgage, you must first understand the basics of a mechanic’s lien. A mechanic’s lien is a lien that attaches to a property for unpaid work on that property. This means that, if the property is sold, a portion of the sales price must be used to satisfy a mechanic’s lien attached to the property. Typically, it’s used when a property owner doesn’t pay a contractor, but trades workers also use it to secure unpaid wages. 

Who Can Get a Mechanic’s Lien?

Anyone who makes improvements on a property with the owner’s knowledge or consent can get a mechanic’s lien for unpaid work as long as they are licensed to perform the work in the county where the property is located, if the work requires a license. This includes:

  • General contractors,
  • Subcontractors,
  • Laborers,
  • Tradespeople,
  • Suppliers,
  • Architects,
  • Gardeners, and
  • Landscapers.

Additionally, those who store or repair vehicles can get a lien for unpaid repairs on a car. This is called a garage person’s lien, and it attaches to the vehicle’s title. 

How Does a Mechanic’s Lien Work?

A mechanic’s lien operates as any other lien on a property, like a mortgage or a title loan. Once it’s effective, it attaches to the property’s title and follows that property until it’s paid. 

To be effective, the lien holder must file it with the county clerk’s office in the county where the property lies. The lien holder can then force the sale of the property in a foreclosure action to satisfy the lien. The mechanic’s lien is maintained for one year unless said mechanic’s lien is extended or a lawsuit to foreclose based on the lien is filed.

Other Mechanic’s Lien Requirements

You must file a mechanic’s lien with the county clerk within eight months of completing the work. In a single-family dwelling, you only have four months to file. When filing, you must provide all of the details of your work and the agreed-upon pay.

You don’t necessarily need a contract for a mechanic’s lien, although home improvements in New York do require a contract. If you’re in a profession that requires a license, then you must have a valid license within the county where work was performed to be eligible for a mechanic’s lien.

Does a Mechanic’s Lien Override a Bank Loan on Real Property?

Nearly every major purchase these days has a loan attached to it, and that is especially true when it comes to real estate. Typically, purchasers take out mortgages to buy real estate. A mortgage is a secured loan, which means it attaches to the property’s title as any other lien. The bank has a right to take and sell the property if the person doesn’t repay the mortgage. 

People often wonder, If a piece of real property has multiple liens, mortgages, or loans, which lien is  the priority? In other words, who gets paid if the property is sold or foreclosed by one of the lien holders or lenders? New York has a general rule that liens are paid in the order they are recorded with the county clerk. This is called the “first in time, first in right” rule. 

For example, let’s say you file a mechanic’s lien with the county clerk on October 1, 2022. Then, you or another lien holder forces the sale of the property through foreclosure to satisfy the lien. Any liens or mortgages recorded before October 1, 2022, will be paid before your lien. But your lien would be paid before any liens recorded after that date. Essentially, when you file a lien on a real property, you are adding yourself to the end of the line to collect an amount of money.

Can You Obtain a Mechanic’s Lien on a Financed Vehicle?

Car repair shops and garages can get a type of mechanic’s lien on a financed vehicle or any vehicle for unpaid work or garage fees. This is generally called a garage person’s lien. To be eligible for a garage person’s lien, you must meet the following criteria:

  • DMV-licensed shop–your shop or garage must be licensed with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • Consent–the owner of the vehicle must have given you consent to do the work on the vehicle
  • Price–the vehicle owner must have agreed on the cost of repairs; and
  • Possession–the repair shop or garage must have physical possession of the vehicle.

Once these conditions are met, the garage keeper can force the sale of the vehicle by auction after serving notice of the lien and sale on the car owner and bank or finance company.

Unlike a regular mechanic’s lien, you don’t need to file a garage person’s lien anywhere. Instead, it automatically becomes effective when someone doesn’t pay for the repairs to their vehicle or storage for their vehicle.

Once the repair shop gives notice of the lien, the finance company, bank, or vehicle owner can pay the lien and get the car back. However, the finance company, bank holding the title loan, or owner can challenge the validity of the repair shop’s lien. This involves litigation and often a hearing. You should consult with an attorney if you’re facing a fight over the validity of your lien.

Does a Mechanic’s Lien Override a Title Loan on a Car?

Cars and other vehicles often have other liens or loans. You may wonder, does a mechanic’s lien override a title loan on a vehicle? The answer is a bit complicated. Ultimately, the repair shop has a possessory lien on the car because they physically possess the vehicle. A possessory lien is generally considered stronger than a title loan and will be paid first by the owner or the bank, so long as it’s valid. 

Contact Our Attorneys for a Mechanic’s Lien or Garage Person’s Lien

Getting a mechanic’s lien on a financed vehicle or mortgaged property may feel complicated. It involves dealing with banks and their white-shoe attorneys, and you may have to litigate your lien in court. You do not have to face this process alone. TonaLaw can help. Our business litigation attorneys will help you fight for your rights to your unpaid contract fees and labor. Contact one of our client-centered lawyers today.

What Our Clients Are Saying

Excellent5.0 Based on 371 reviews from review us onyessenia lopez ramosyessenia lopez ramos ★★★★★ I have know Attorney Will Ramos for many years. He is very detail oriented, a great advocate, and an empathetic individual.I have referred a few clients during their time of need over to Will and the friendly staff at Tona Law. He is willing to go above and beyond for others.CARLOS RODRIGUEZCARLOS RODRIGUEZ ★★★★★ I have known Will Ramos for 15 plus years and can attest to his character in placing the needs for others above his own. He is an asset to any organization and a team player with positive attitude.Jessica MalaveJessica Malave ★★★★★ I’ve known attorney Will Ramos for 16 years he always places the needs of others above his own. He is a caring man and super understanding and has a big heart.Bianca RamosBianca Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is awesome the law firm is lucky to have someone like him part of their team. He genuinely cares for others and is always willing to lend a helping hand.Response from the ownerBianca, thank you for leaving a wonderful review for our firm. We are lucky to have Will Ramos as part of our team! Arianna RamosArianna Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is nothing short of dedicated and hard working. Each case he works on demonstrates his passion for law and his care for his clients.Response from the ownerThank you for your review, Arianna! Will Ramos has been a wonderful asset to our team. JenneferJennefer ★★★★★ I've had the pleasure of knowing Lauren for quite a while now, and I must say, her dedication to her clients is truly remarkable. She takes immense pride in her work as a professional she seamlessly balances her role at Tona Law, where she's involved in legal matters. Having seen her commitment and skill firsthand, I can confidently recommend both Lauren and Tona Law to anyone seeking top-notch assistance.Celine Aubry-DumandCeline Aubry-Dumand ★★★★★ I had a great experience working with TonaLaw.The team was really friendly and helpful throughout the entire process.Response from the ownerCeline, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review for our firm. We are so grateful we were able to help you and provide you with a great experience. Thank you! Adam OmallyAdam Omally ★★★★★ I have known Lauren one of the paralegals at Tona law for many years and she is dedicated to her profession and helping her clients. Wonderful person.Alexandra DevineAlexandra Devine ★★★★★ Lauren at TonaLaw was extremely helpful! She was so nice and professional. I highly recommend asking for her!Margaret CaschettaMargaret Caschetta ★★★★★ I have known Lauren for a long time and she’s always been dedicated to her job! Excellent at anything she’s ever done.NICOLE GUASTONICOLE GUASTO ★★★★★ Lauren’s great- reliable empathetic the whole package - years of knowing her I wouldn’t ask for anyone elseKeith MaederKeith Maeder ★★★★★ I have known Lauren, one of the paralegals, for many years. Her client first approach is second to none. She is knowledgeable and professional. She as an asset to both her clients and Tona Law.Emily PadillaEmily Padilla ★★★★★ Ana was super professional and very polite! Answered all the questions that was needed! Highly recommend, wish I can give 10 stars!Kailynn ApolinarisKailynn Apolinaris ★★★★★ Ana is amazing! As an old coworker I can say Ana is always ready to assist. She is a great asset to anyone lucky enough to work with her.Response from the ownerKailynn, thank you for leaving a wonderful review for our firm. Ana is truly a wonderful part of our team! peter alsenpeter alsen ★★★★★ In all of my dealings with the TonaLaw office, the lawyers and staff have been excellent.They have earned my confidence and trust.Response from the ownerWe are so pleased to hear that you’ve had such a great experience with our team. Your confidence and trust in our firm is greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for your review! Ashley VelazquezAshley Velazquez ★★★★★ Ana was knowledgeable, courteous & helpful throughout everything! She was willing to go the extra mile! It was a delight working with her. You’re in great hands when working with Ana!!Patty RivasPatty Rivas ★★★★★ The team is fantastic. I worked with Ana directly and appreciated how quickly she was able to respond back to me and provide efficient, excellent results. I would work with her again!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your kind words about Ana and the rest of our team! Patricia WernerPatricia Werner ★★★★★ Ana was phenomenal. What a great asset to Tona Law!joseph tonettijoseph tonetti ★★★★★ I have known Lauren one of the personal injury paralegals at Tonalaw for almost 20 years, having employed her for over a decade she is a hard worker and loves doing what she does. She has passion and strong dedication her clients. I highly recommend Tona Law.Response from the ownerLauren is a valuable asset to the TonaLaw team. She is extremely passionate and dedicated to our clients. Thank you so much for your kind words and recommendation! Rigoberto LazoRigoberto Lazo ★★★★★ Ana is such a great asset to Tonalaw. She is a very hard worker and always dedicated to her clients. She is also very empathetic and kind hearted. Her goal is always to have 100% client satisfaction and she will make sure you have that. You are in great hands at Tonalaw!Response from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to leave our firm a thoughtful review! Ana is truly dedicated to our clients and the work we do here at TonaLaw. We are grateful to have her on our team! Melissa RivasMelissa Rivas ★★★★★ Ana is wonderful! Always eager to please her client and does great work. Very happy she’s a part of Tona Law.Kristine ForteKristine Forte ★★★★★ I am so happy I used Tonalaw. I spoke with Lauren and Jada who are amazing. Any questions I had they answered and I felt the compassion and understanding they have for me. I highly recommend using tonalaw.Mona MichelMona Michel ★★★★★ sean2844sean2844 ★★★★★ I have known Lauren one of the paralegals at Tona Law and she is extremely dedicated to her profession. She is very helpful to her clients and an asset to the firm.sorivel gulottasorivel gulotta ★★★★★ Thank you Lauren for all of your help! You are always ready for any challenge and willing to answer any questions. Always professional, informative and kind. Will highly recommend!js_loader