From the Real Estate section of How You Can Avoid Legal Land Mines by Joseph S. Lyles (2003).

Once a carpenter, plumber, electrician or other tradesman has completed his work on your construction project (typically a new house), he can file a lien against your title to ensure payment of the bill. There are strict time limits on how soon after a workman (in legal language, mechanic) completes the job a lien must be filed and then enforced with a lawsuit.

If you are a subcontractor on a construction project, you should always file a mechanic’s lien as soon as you suspect that you may not be fully or promptly paid. And if you are an owner, you have to be aware that the lien will attach to your title even if it is the primary contractor (general contractor) who is supposed to pay the subcontractor.

The Lesson: Protect your rights by seeking legal counsel to review the construction contracts before you sign them and as soon as your construction project hits rough waters. Your rights will be affected by the written contracts and the laws concerning mechanic’s liens. Additionally, if you are financing the project, there will be more legal issues dealing with the lender and its contracts.