Because of the current crisis, the state has closed the courts to all activities except essential functions. Almost the entire civil docket has been suspended. In order to mitigate those effects, the Governor’s Executive Order No. 7G (the “Executive Order”) suspends “all time requirements, statutes of limitation or other limitations or deadlines relating to service of process, court proceedings or court filings” including “all time limitations in Chapters 959, 959a, 960 and 961 of the General Statutes.” The problem is that a mechanic’s lien is recorded on the land records (not in court) and mechanic’s liens are discussed in Chapter 847 of the General Statutes, instead of the chapters specifically mentioned above. Thus, regardless of whether the omission was intentional, mechanic’s liens are not expressly covered by the Executive Order.
Because land records are maintained by Connecticut’s municipalities, the Executive Order does not extend the deadline to record a mechanic’s lien. However, the problem with recording mechanic’s liens during the pandemic is that most City and Town Clerk’s offices are not open to the public. Each City and Town is handling the situation differently. Some are accepting submissions online. Others have a drobox outside City Hall or Town Hall. But most are providing a way for liens to be recorded.
The biggest obstacle to enforcing your lien rights during the pandemic may be the difficulty in obtaining a legal description of the property. Connecticut’s land records are not officially online and a lot of online information is incorrect. Therefore, it may not be possible to obtain a title report before filing a mechanic’s lien during the pandemic. Fortunately, courts have held that the property address is a sufficient property description to support a lien. Thus, while I would not normally proceed with a lien based upon only a street address, during this pandemic, I would recommend filing a lien based upon a street as opposed to not filing a lien at all.
Courts often state that the mechanic’s lien laws were created to promote justice and should be liberally construed. Therefore, in the present climate, it can be argued that any defects in a lien should be excused. However, if you don’t attempt to file a lien, you cannot make that argument. In other words, until this crisis passes, my opinion is that filing a potentially defective lien will be better than not filing a lien at all.
If you should have any questions with how to address any legal issue during this crisis, please give me a call at (203) 640-8825.