Is Filing a Lien Release Required?

What happens if you file a mechanics lien, but then you are paid? Or, what happens if a lien expires because it is not enforced within the permissible time period? You might forget about the lien and think it disappears, but this is not the case.

The next step is to file a lien release (also called a release of lien or lien cancellation). Just because a mechanics lien claim expires or you are paid does not mean that it is stripped from the county records. Most states strictly require that the lien claimant formally release the lien after payment has been received, but even if it is not required by your state, it is best practice to release the lien if you don’t intend to enforce your claim.

It is important to handle these documents – like all documents related to the lien process – carefully. Requirements vary by state and even by county, so staying on top of the intricate rules that govern lien releases for your project is essential to securely navigating the lien release process.

How to File a Lien Release?

Lien releases are filed with the county recorder or office where the lien was recorded. Make sure that the lien release contains all the proper information, because making a mistake can invalidate the release and can potentially create problems for the lien claimant. In most cases, the lien release must also be notarized. To make sure that your lien release is filed properly and contains the correct information, follow one of the two options below:

Releasing a Lien: Option 1 (the hard way)

1. Visit zlien.com/resources and select your state
2. Look at the FAQs and Lien Statute to learn how to release a lien in your state
3. Click “Forms” in the menu on the left and download your state’s lien release form
4. Enter the required information
5. Notarize the lien release (if your state requires notarization)
6. File the lien release with the county clerks office and pay any required filing fee

Releasing a Lien: Option 2 (the easy way)

1. Visit app.zlien.com and follow the steps

When to File a Lien Release?

Best practice is to release a lien as soon as payment clears.

In most cases, deadlines for releasing liens are set forth from the date of satisfaction (when the lien claim is paid) or from the date the property owner requests in writing that the lien be released. Keep in mind that these deadlines are set forth to mark the maximum amount of time to file a lien release before the claimant is penalized; waiting until just before the deadline to release a lien can be risky because a hiccup in the process or an unforeseen delay might cause the lien to be released late, resulting in penalties.

The deadlines for releasing a lien vary by state.  Most states require that liens are released within 10 to 30 days of satisfaction or the date written request for release was received. However, there are exceptions. Maine provides a longer acceptable timeframe (60 days from satisfaction) while Washington’s statute says that a lien release is due “immediately” upon satisfaction or written request. Other states don’t provide a specific deadline for releasing liens even when they are required, but it is best practice to file a lien release as soon as payment has been received.

Check the chart below or visit zlien.com/resources to view the specific rules for your state.

What Happens If I Don’t Release a Lien?

Failure to release a lien can result in penalties for the lien claimant. In Alabama, for example, failing to release a lien (or releasing it late) subjects the lien claimant to personal liability of $1000 and liability for actual damages. Many states have similar fines and financial penalties to discourage lien claimants from failing to release liens within the mandated time period.

In addition to statutory penalties, non-compliant lien claimants might face a lawsuit from the property owner. The owner can allege that since the lien is still on record and has formally expired, it is “frivolous” and “slandering title.” Losing such a court battle could result in the lien claimant being responsible for costs and attorneys fees in addition to statutory penalties! This situation is undesirable and can be easily avoided by releasing the lien.

Lien Release Requirements by State

StateIs Releasing a Lien Required?When Is It Required?
AlabamaRequiredWithin 30 days of satisfaction
Alaska No specific requirement
Arizona RequiredWithin 20 days of satisfaction
ArkansasRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction
CaliforniaMay be required
Colorado RequiredWithin 10 days of written request
ConnecticutMay be required
Delaware No specific requirement
FloridaMay be required
GeorgiaMay be required
Hawaii No specific requirement
IdahoNo specific requirement
IllinoisRequiredWithin 10 days of written request
IndianaNo specific requirement
IowaRequiredWithin 30 days of written request
KansasNo specific requirement
KentuckyRequiredWithin 30 days of satisfaction
LouisianaRequiredUpon written request
MaineRequiredWithin 60 days of satisfaction
MarylandRequiredUpon satisfaction
MassachusettsNo specific requirement
MichiganRequiredUpon satisfaction
MinnesotaNo specific requirement
MississippiRequiredWithin 15 days of satisfaction
MissouriRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction
MontanaRequiredUpon satisfaction
NebraskaNo specific requirement
NevadaRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction, upon written request
New HampshireRequiredUpon satisfaction
New JerseyRequiredWithin 30 days of satisfaction
New MexicoNo specific requirement
New YorkNo specific requirement
North CarolinaNo specific requirement
North DakotaNo specific requirement
OhioRequiredWithin 30 days of satisfaction
OklahomaRequiredUpon satisfaction
OregonRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction
PennsylvaniaNo specific requirement
Rhode IslandNo specific requirement
South CarolinaRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction
South DakotaRequiredUpon satisfaction
TennesseeRequiredWithin 30 days of satisfaction
TexasRequiredWithin 10 days of satisfaction
UtahRequiredWithin 10 days of written request
VermontNo specific requirement
VirginiaNo specific requirement
WashingtonRequiredImmediately upon satisfaction or written request
Washington DCNo specific requirement
West VirginiaRequired
WisconsinRequiredUpon satisfaction
WyomingRequiredUpon satisfaction