The notice and timing requirements contained in Tennessee’s Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-101 et seq. can prove fatal to the lien rights of an unwary lien claimant, especially a remote contractor, laborer or supplier. Tennessee’s lien statute imposes different requirements for a party that is not in direct contractual privity with an owner to obtain a lien. In particular, the lien statute requires that a remote contractor provide two types of notices in a particular time frame in order to obtain a mechanics’ lien: (1) Notice of Nonpayment; and (2) Notice of Lien.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-145 requires that a remote contractor provide a Notice of Nonpayment to the owner and prime contractor as a condition precedent to obtaining a lien. A Notice of Nonpayment stating that the subject account is unpaid must be delivered to the owner and prime contractor within 90 days of the last day of each month within which the remote contractor performed the work, not the date the bill goes out. The Notice of Nonpayment must be specific, too. The Notice should include: (1) name of remote contractor and address; (2) description of work, services and/or materials provided; (3) amount owed date of notice; (4) statement of last date work performed and/or services or materials provided; and (5) description identifying the real property for which lien is claimed.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-115 provides that a remote contractor must provide a Notice of Lien, in writing, to the owner and prime contractor within 90 days after completion of the subject project. The Notice of Lien must contain the same information as the Notice of Nonpayment discussed above. Unlike a prime contractor, a remote contractor’s lien lasts only 90 days from the date of service of notice. A remote contractor must file an action to enforce the lien within said 90-day period or the remote contractor loses its lien rights.

Moral of the story: a remote contractor must act quickly to preserve its lien rights. The technical requirements of Tennessee’s Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute are strictly enforced, so it is imperative that remote contractors are diligent in adhering to the notice requirements and statutory deadlines. Remember, timing is everything.