Alabama Lien Law

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Alabama Code § 35-11-210 stipulates that liens can be claimed for work, labor, or material constituting an improvement. The term “improvement” is determined on a case-by-case basis. Bates v. Harte, 26 So. 898 (A,a. 1899). Generally, courts consider whether the services rendered added value to the property, regardless of the claimant’s title or classification. Guaranty Pest Control v. Commercial Inv. & Dev. Corp., 264 So.2d 163 (1972). For example, clearing, grading, or excavating real property is considered a permanent improvement and is, therefore, lienable. Mazel v. Bain, 133 So.2d 44 (Ala. 1961).

Alabama law establishes that in order to claim a lien for “off-site” items, such as materials that are to be incorporated into the improvement on-site, it is necessary that the materials are furnished and the labor performed on something that attaches to and becomes a part of the land. Waid v. Glencoe Lumber Co., 103 So.2d 730 (Ala. 1958). However, a trade fixture such as a printing press that can be easily removed is not an improvement to land and is not subject to a mechanic’s lien. Forbes v. Alabama Machinery & Supply Co., 58 So. 398 (Ala. 1912).

Alabama law provides for two types of liens: an “unpaid balance” and a “full price” lien. An unpaid balance lien extends only to the amount of any unpaid balance due the contractor by the owner or proprietor. In contrast, a full-price lien allows the furnisher of materials to have a lien for the full price thereof. The full-price lien arises from either an express or implied contract of the owner to pay for materials. Richard v. Little, 96 So. 114 (Ala. 1923). The Alabama Code provides an example form for a preliminary notice, which must be served by materialmen not having a direct contract with the owner. Kilgore v. First Assembly of God Church, Inc., 477 So.2d 300 (Ala. 1985).

Liens must be perfected in accordance with Alabama’s mechanics lien statute. All lien claimants, except an original contractor, must give notice to the owner prior to filing a verified statement of lien. The notice must be given in writing and include the amount and subject of the lien, as well as the person or entity from whom the amount is owing. Payvee Mortgage Co. v. Gobble-Fite Lumber Co., Inc., 565 So.2d 138 (Ala. 1990). The verifying statement of lien must be filed in the office of the Judge of Probate of the county where the property is located. The time period for filing varies depending on the lienor’s status. Laborers must file within 30 days of the last labor provided on the project. Original contractors must file within six months after the last item of work has been furnished. All other lien claimants must file within four months after the last item of work or material has been performed or furnished. Ala. Code § 35-11-215 (1975).

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