In the various States of the Union, a lien is charged by statute on the real estate benefited by the erection or repair of buildings or by other improvements, to secure to laborers, contractors, and material men the payment of the wages or other sums due them for labor done or materials furnished.

Many States also give liens for labor done in and about mines and on railroads and farms; also for labor done or materials furnished in the construction and equipment of vessels or for labor performed in navigating the same.

Artisans, mechanics, and others have, in many States, a statutory lien on articles of personal property made, repaired, or cared for by them at the request or on behalf of the owner.

As fairly representative of such statutes, the law enacted by the Congress of the United States to control the subject of liens in the District of Columbia is here reproduced, certain sections relating to proceedings in court and to the liens of innkeepers and liverymen being omitted.


CHAPTER 40.Liens. SECTION 1237. Every building erected, improved, added to, or repaired by the owner or his agent, and the lot of ground on which the same is erected, being all the ground used or intended to be used in connection therewith, or necessary to the use and enjoyment thereof, to the extent of the right, title, and interest, at that time existing, of such owner, whether owner in fee or of a less estate, or lessee for a term of years, or vendee in possession under a contract of sale, shall be subject to a lien in favor of the contractor with such owner or his duly authorized agent for the contract price agreed upon between them, or, in the absence of an express contract, for the reasonable value of the work and materials furnished for and about the erection, construction, improvement, or repair of or addition to such building, or the placing of any engine, machinery, or other thing thefein or in connection therewith so as to become a fixture, though capable of being detached: Provided, That the person claiming the lien shall file the notice herein prescribed.

Sec. 1238. Any such contractor wishing to avail himself of the provision aforesaid, whether his claim be due or not, shall file in the office of the clerk of the supreme court of the District during the construction or within three months after the completion of such building, improvement, repairs, or addition, or the placing therein or in connection therewith of any engine, machinery, or other thing so as to become a fixture, a notice of his intention to hold a lien on the property hereby declared liable to such lien for the amount due or to become due to him, specifically setting forth the amount claimed, the name of the party against whose interest a lien is claimedl, and a description of the property to be charged, and the said clerk shall file said notice and record the same in a book to be kept for the purpose.

Sec. 1239. Any person directly employed by the original contractor, whether as subcontractor, material man, or laborer, to furnish work or materials for the completion of the work contracted for as aforesaid, shall be entitled to a similar lien to that of the original contractor upon his filing a similar notice with the clerk of the supreme court of the District to that above mentioned, subject, however, to the conditions set forth in the following sections.

Sex: 1240. All such liens in favor of parties so employed by the contractor shall be subject to the terms and conditions of the original contract except such as shall relate to the waiver of liens and shall be limited to the amount to become due to the original contractor and be satisfied, in whole or in part, out of said amount only; and if said original contractor, by reason of any breach of the contract on his part, shall be entitled to recover less than the amount agreed upon in his contract, the liens of said parties so employed by him shall be enforceable only for said reduced amount, and if said original contractor shall be entitled to recover nothing said liens shall not be enforceable at all.

SEC. 1241. The said subcontractor or other person employed by the contractor as aforesaid, besides filing a notice with the clerk of the supreme court as aforesaid, shall serve the same upon the owner of the property upon which the lien is claimed, by leaving a copy thereof with said owner or his agent, if said owner or agent be a resident of the District, or if neither can be found, by posting the same on the premises; and on his failure to do so, or until he shall do so, the said owner may make payments to his contractor according to the terms of his contract, and to the extent of such payments the lien of the principal contractor shall be discharged and the amount for which the property shall be chargeable in favor of the parties so employed by him reduced.

Sec. 1242. After notice shall be filed by said party employed under the original contractor and a copy thereof served upon the owner or his agent as aforesaid, the owner shall be bound to retain out of any subsequent payments becoming due to the contractor a sufficient amount to satisfy any indebtedness due from said contractor to the said subcontractor, or other person so employed by him, secured by lien as aforesaid, otherwise the said party shall be entitled to enforce his lien to the extent of the amount so accruing to the principal contractor.

SEC. 1243. Any subcontractor or other person employed by the contractor as aforesaid shall be entitled to demand of the owner or his authorized agent a statement of the terms under which the work contracted for is being done and the amount due or to become due to the contractor executing the same, and if the owner or his agent shall fail or refuse to give the said information, or willfully state falsely the terms of the contract or the amounts due or unpaid thereunder, the said property shall be liable to the lien of the said party demanding said information, in the same manner as if no payments had been made to the contractor before notice served on the owner as aforesaid. · SEC. 1244. If the owner, for the purpose of avoiding the provisions hereof, and defeating the lien of the subcontractor or other person employed by the contractor, as aforesaid, shall make payments to the contractor in advance of the time agreed upon therefor in the contract, and the amount still due or to become due to the contractor shall be insufficient to satisfy the liens of the subcontractors or others so employed by the contractor, the property shall remain subject to said liens in the same manner as if such payments had not been made.

Sec. 1245. The lien hereby given shall be preferred to all judgments, mortgages, deeds of trusts, liens, and incumbrances which attach upon the building or ground affected by said lien subsequently to the commencement of the work upon the building, as well as to conveyances executed, but not recorded, before that time, to which recording is necessary, as to third persons; except that nothing herein shall affect the priority of a mortgage or deed of trust given to secure the purchase money for the land, if the same be recorded within ten days from the date of the acknowledgment thereof. When a mortgage or deed of trust of real estate securing advances thereafter to be made for the purpose of erecting buildings and improvements thereon is given, or when an owner of lands contracts with a builder for the sale of lots and the erection of buildings thereon, and agrees to advance moneys toward the erection of such buildings, the lien herein before authorized shall have priority to all advances made after the filing of said notices of lien, and the lien shall attach to the right, title, and interest of the owner in said building and land to the extent of all advances which shall have become due after the filing of such notice of such lien, and shall also attach to and be a lien on the right, title, and interest of the person so agreeing to purchase said land at the time of the filing of said notices of lien. When a building shall be erected or repaired by a lessee or tenant for life or years, or a person having an equitable estate or interest in such building or land on which it stands, the lien created by this act shall only extend to and cover the interest or estate of such lessee, tenant, or equitable owner.

SEC. 1246. The proceeding to enforce the lien hereby given shall be a bill in equity, which shall contain a brief statement of the contract on which the claim is founded, the amount due thereon, the time when the notice was filed with the clerk, and a copy thereof served on the owner or his agent, if so served, and the time when the building or the work thereon was completed, with a description of the premises and other material facts; and shall pray that the premises be sold and the proceeds of sale applied to the satisfaction of the lien. If such suit be brought by any person entitled, other than the principal contractor, the latter shall be made a party defendant, as well as all other persons who may have filed notices of liens, as aforesaid. All or any number of persons having liens on the same property may join in one suit, their respective claims being distinctly stated in separate paragraphs; and if several suits are brought by different claimants and are pending at the same time, the court may order them to be consolidated.

SEC. 1248. If the original contractor and the persons contracting or employed under him shall both have filed notices of liens, as aforesaid, the latter shall first be satisfied out of the proceeds of sale before the original contractor, but not in excess of the amount due him, and the balance, if any, of said amount shall be paid to him.

Sec. 1249. If one, or some only, of the persons employed under the original contractor shall have served notice on the owner, as aforesaid, before payments made by him to the original contractor, said party or parties shall be entitled to priority of satisfaction out of said proceeds to the amount of such payments; but, subject to this provision, if the proceeds of sale, after paying thereout the costs of the suit, shall be insufficient to satisfy the liens of said parties employed under the original contractor the said proceeds shall be distributed ratably among them to the extent of the payments accruing to the original contractor subsequently to the service of notice on the owner by said parties, as aforesaid.

Sec. 1250. In case of labor done or materials furnished for the erection or repair of two or more buildings joined together and owned by the same person or persons, it shall not be necessary to determine the amount of work done or materials furnished for each separate building, but only the aggregate amount upon all the buildings so joined, and the decree may be for the sale of all the buildings and the land on which they are erected as one building, or they may be sold separately if it shall seem best to the court.

Sec. 1251. Any person entitled to a lien, as aforesaid, may commence his suit to enforce the same at any time within a year from and after the filing of the notice aforesaid or within six months from the completion of the building or repairs aforesaid, on his failure to do which the said lien shall cease to exist, unless his said claim be not due at the expiration of said periods, in which case the action must be commenced within three months after the said claim shall have become due.

Sec. 1252. If there be any contest as to the dimensions of the ground claimed to be subjected to the lien aforesaid, the court shall determine the same upon the evidence and describe the same in the decree of sale.

Sec. 1253. Whenever any person having a lien by virtue hereof shall have received satisfaction of his claim and cost, he shall, on the demand, and at the cost of the person interested, enter said claim satisfied, in the clerk's office aforesaid, and on his failure or refusal so to do he shall forfeit fifty dollars to the party aggrieved, and all damages that the latter may have sustained by reason of such failure or refusal.

Sec. 1257. No subcontractor, material man, or workman employed under the original contractor shall be entitled to a personal judgment or decree against the owner of the premises for the amount due to him from said original contractor, except upon a special promise of such owner, in writing, for a sufficient consideration, to be answerable for the same.

Sec. 1258. In any suit brought to enforce a lien by virtue of the provisions aforesaid, if the proceeds of the property affected thereby shall be insufficient to satisfy such lien, a personal judgment for the deficiency may be given in favor of the lien or against the owner of the premises or the original contractor, as the case may be, whichever contracted with him for the labor or materials furnished by him, provided such person be a party to the suit and shall have been personally served with process therein.

Sec. 1259. Any person who shall furnish materials or labor in filling up any lot or in constructing any wharf thereon, or dredging the channel of the river in front of any wharf, under any contract with the owner, shall be entitled to a lien for the value of such work or materials on said lot and wharf upon the same conditions and to be enforced in the same manner as in the case of work done in the erection of buildings, as herein before provided.

Sec. 1260. Any mechanic or artisan who shall make, alter, or repair any article of personal property at the request of the owner shall have a lien thereon for his just and reasonable charges for his work done and materials furnished, and may retain the same in his possession until said charges are paid; but if possession is parted with by his consent such lien shall cease. Sec. 1263. If the amount due and for which a lien is given by *

* [section 1260) is not paid after the end of a month after the same is due, and the property bound by said lien does not exceed the sum of fifty dollars, then the party entitled to such lien, after demand of payment upon the debtor, if he be within the District, may proceed to sell the property so subject to lien at public auction, after giving notice once a week for three successive weeks in some daily newspaper published in the District, and the proceeds of such sale shall be applied, first, to the expenses of such sales and the discharge of such lien, and the remainder, if any, shall be paid over to the owner of the property.

Sec. 1264. If the value of the property so subject to lien shall exceed the sum of fifty dollars, the proceeding to enforce such lien shall be by bill or petition in equity, and the decree, which shall be rendered according to the due course of proceedings in equity, besides subjecting the thing upon which the lien was attached to sale for the satisfaction of the plaintiff's demand, shall adjudge that the plaintiff recover his demand against the defendant from whom such claim is due, and may have execution therefor as at law.

The following digest of the lien laws of the various States presents, under topical headings, the main provisions of these laws, omitting in general those of only local application:


For what giren.—Liens may be secured for performing work or furnishing material for buildings or improvements, including the alteration, repair, or beautifying of the same; for furnishing fixtures and machinery; for labor on railroads; for labor done or supplies furnished in or about the building, repair, furnishing, victualing, sailing, or management of any vessel; for farm labor; for labor or materials furnished by mechanics for the production or repair of any vehicle, implement, machine, or article of any kind.

Who may have lien.-Contractors, subcontractors, and employees, whether persons, firms, or corporations; mechanics, blacksmiths, and woodworkmen; masters, laborers, stevedores, and ship keepers; laborers and employees of railroad companies, except the officers thereof; agricultural laborers and plantation superintendents.

Subject property.—The building and the entire lot on which it is situated, if in a city, town, or village, otherwise one acre of ground, to the extent of the owners' interest; all the property, rights, effects, and credits of a railroad company; ships, steamboats, or other water craft; crops grown during the current year of a laborer's employment, and any vehicle, implement, machine, or article made or repaired.

Amount of lien.—The liens of contractors' employees must not exceed the unpaid balance due such contractors; liens of railroad and farm laborers cover the amount of wages due and unpaid, or the value of his portion of the crop, if a farm laborer worked on shares; liens on chattels may be for the agreed price, or the value, if no price was agreed upon, of the work or materials furnished.

Contract. - A contract must be with the owner or proprietor of a building, or with his agent, architect, trustee, contractor, or subcontractor.

Notice. Every person except an original contractor must give notice in writing of his claim of lien.

Filing.Liens of original contractors must be filed within six months, of journeymen and day laborers within thirty days, and of all other persons within four months after the indebtedness has accrued.

Limitation.-Proceedings to enforce liens must be begun within six months after the demand becomes due.

Rank.-As to land, such liens take priority over all liens or mortgages subsequently created; as to buildings, they take priority over all incumbrances, whether preexistent or not.

All liens of this class stand on an equal footing, except those in favor of an original contractor, which are subordinate to the claims of subcontractors, etc., and must be first paid, either in full or pro rata as proceeds may allow.

Source: Code of 1897, sections 2712, 2723 to 2773.


For what given.—A lien may be had for the performance of labor or for furnishing material for the erection, alteration, or repair of any building or improvement; for furnishing any machinery, fixtures, or tools; for labor, teams, materials, etc., employed in the construction or repair of a railroad, locomotive, car, or other equipment, and for labor in operating a railroad; for labor or material used on canals, bridges, or fences, or in or about any mine or mining claim, or in equipping or carrying on any mill, manufactory, or hoisting works; for filling in or improving a city lot, or the street in front thereof; for labor at cutting, sawing, skidding, hewing, or piling any wood, logs, or ties; for furnishing supplies, material, or labor for or on account of any domestic vessel owned in whole or in part in the Territory; for repairing any article, utensil, implement, or vehicle.

Who may have lien.-Contractors, subcontractors, mechanics, artisans, material men, miners, laborers, foundry men, carpenters.

Subject property.—The house, buildings, fixtures, or improvements and the lot or lots of land necessarily connected therewith; if outside the limits of a city, town, or village, to include ten acres of land (not exceeding five acres, if a mining claim or mill site); a railroad and its equipment; canals, bridges, fences, and other structures and improvements; mines and mining claims; city lots; mills, factories, or hoisting works; wood, logs, or ties; domestic vessels, their tackle, furniture, and freight; any article, utensil, implement, or vehicle.

Amount of lien.-Such sums as are unpaid.

Contract. The contract with the owner of a building may be verbal. An owner is bound by the action or request of his agent.

Notice.-Claimants other than an original contractor must deliver to the owner within sixty days from the completion of the improvements a statement of their accounts; or if the owner is not within the county such statement must be filed, which acts fix the liability of the owner.

Filing: -A contractor or other claimant must file a claim within ninety days of the completion of the work.

Limitation. Suit must be brought within six months to enforce the lien.

Rank.–Liens of this class are preferred to all liens, mortgages, or other incumbrances attaching subsequent to the commencement of labor or of furnishing materials; also to all earlier incumbrances of which the lien holder had notice (sic). All liens of this class are on an equal footing without reference to the date of the performance of the work or of the filing of the lien or account.

Source: Revised Statutes of 1901, sections 2888 to 2912, 2915, 2923.


For what giren.—For performing labor or furnishing material for any building, erection, or improvement upon land, or for repairing the same; for fixtures or machinery furnished; for labor or materials furnished for the construction, equipment, or for facilitating the operation of any railroad, whether completed or not; for furnishing board, provisions, or supplies for employees or teams employed in the construction or repair of a railroad; for furnishing labor or materials for building or repairing any boat or vessel of any kind and for services aboard the same; for labor in mines and quarries; for digging or constructing any well or cistern; for labor of blacksmiths and wheelwrights on any vehicle or farm implement repaired by them, and for materials used thereon; for work and labor done for any person by laborers, including farm labor.

Who may hare lien.-Contractors, subcontractors, laborers, mechanics, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and material men.

Subject property.—The lien covers the building or other improvement and the land opon which it is situated to the extent of one acre; or if in a town, city, or village, the entire lot to the extent of the right, title, and interest owned therein by the owner of the building; the road bed, buildings, equipments, income, franchise, right of way, and all other appurtenances of railroads; any boat or vessel; the output of a mine or quarry and the machinery, tools, and implements used therein; the land on which a well or cistern is dug or constructed, to an amount sufficient to cover the debt; crops, vehicles, farm implements, or other object or thing produced by the labor for which the claim is made, or on which such labor was expended.

Amount of lien.No lien may exceed the amount named in the original contract. Liens on railroads, crops, chatiels, etc., secure the amount of the debt after all just eredits are given.

Contract. --A contract with the owner or proprietor of a building or other improvement, or of a vessel, or with his agent, trustee, contractor, or subcontractor will support a lien. Labor done on a railroad under contract with the company or with a contractor or subcontractor, and the furnishing of supplies or board with the consent or authority of any person authorized to make construction or repair are under sufficient contracts. The contract for digging a well or cistern may be express or implied.

Notice. Every person except the original contractor must give ten days' notice to the owner or his agent before filing his lien. Chattels to be sold for lien must be sold at auction after ten days' public notice. Laborers' liens are absolute, and are in full force from and after the performance of the labor.

Kling.--Accounts and claims as to buildings and improvements must be filed within ninety days after the completion of the service for which the lien is claimed. Claims of blacksmiths and wheelwrights for work done on vehicles and farm implements must be filed within thirty days from the completion of such work.

Limitation.-Liens on buildings and improvements must be prosecuted within fifteen months from the date of filing, liens of railroad employees within twelve months, laborers' liens within eight months, and liens of blacksmiths and wheel

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