An unpaid contractor has many choices when the promised check doesn’t arrive. One of those choices is whether or not to file a mechanic’s lien. A mechanic’s lien is a statutory mortgage to secure payment of work performed or materials furnished in the erection, alteration, or repair of a building or structure upon privately-held real estate.
However, when deciding whether or not to file a mechanic’s lien, you may ask yourself whether your work qualifies. S.C. Code Ann. § 29-5-10 tells us that [a] person to whom a debt is due for labor performed or furnished or for materials furnished and actually used in the erection, alteration, or repair of a building or structure upon real estate . . . shall have a lien upon the building or structure . . . . But what qualifies as “labor” under the statute? It is easy to imagine that a framer would be entitled to a mechanic’s lien, but what about a site work contractor or an architect?
The mechanic’s lien statute provides some limited guidance on this issue. S.C. Code Ann. § 29-5-10 states the following:
- As used in this section, labor performed or furnished in the erection, alteration, or repair of any building or structure upon any real estate includes the preparation of plans, specifications, and design drawings and the work of making the real estate suitable as a site for the building or structure. The work is considered to include, but not be limited to, the grading, bulldozing, leveling, excavating, and filling of land (including the furnishing of fill soil), the grading and paving of curbs and sidewalks and all asphalt paving, the construction of ditches and other drainage facilities, and the laying of pipes and conduits for water, gas, electric, sewage, and drainage purposes, and the disposal of any construction and demolition debris, as defined in Section 44-96-40(6), including final disposal by a construction and demolition landfill. Any private security guard services provided by any person at the site of the building or structure during its erection, alteration, or repair is considered to be labor performed or furnished within the meaning of this section.
S.C. Code Ann. § 29-5-10.
As you can see, the statute sets forth specific scopes of work that would qualify as “labor” under the mechanic’s lien statute. However, it is apparent that this section of the statute merely provides examples and is not an exclusive list of work that qualifies as “labor performed or furnished in the erection, alteration, or repair of any building or structure upon any real estate.” Thus, although we don’t receive complete clarity on the issue, the statute is very helpful to some specific contractors.