When you've built improvements to someone's property, but the owner or general contractor has not paid for them, you still own them. If you aren't paid, you can retrieve the value of your property by foreclosing on the loan. If by agreement you've provided labor or material that was incorporated into (and presumably increased the value of) real estate or improvements to it, you have a mechanics lien on the improved property. The lien comes into being by "action of law," that is, automatically. But certain steps must be taken to make the lien enforceable. Lien statutes are construed strictly, against the lienholder-concrete firm. Because of this strict construction of the statutes, the details for perfecting your mechanics lien cannot be standardized over a large, multistate area.

One point causes the most problems for those who hold mechanics liens: the strict time limits given for the filing of notices and claims. Documents in lien cases often must be done within either 90 days or 4 months, but in some cases the time limit on special cases can be astonishingly tight. Because filing deadlines are so strict, all matters that could turn into mechanics lien cases should be treated from the very beginning as if they were. This means don't refer the file out to a collection agency. By the time the agency collects or gives up on the file, a number of important lien deadlines may have slipped by. Instead, arrange an appointment with a reputable law firm that handles mechanics liens.