“Improve” means build, erect, place, make, alter, remove, repair, or demolish any improvement over, upon, connected with, or beneath the surface of real property, or excavate any land, or furnish materials for any of these purposes, or perform any labor or services upon the improvements, including the furnishing of carpet or rugs or appliances that are permanently affixed to the real property and final construction cleanup to prepare a structure for occupancy; or perform any labor or services or furnish any materials in grading, seeding, sodding, or planting for landscaping purposes, including the furnishing of trees, shrubs, bushes, or plants that are planted on the real property, or in equipping any improvement with fixtures or permanent apparatus or provide any solid-waste collection or disposal on the site of the improvement.
Some improvements, however, are not lienable. A lienor was not entitled to lien shopping mall property for a kiosk where the trial court found that such structure was not a permanent benefit to the mall. A maintenance landscaping service consisting of mowing a lawn and cutting shrubbery did not bestow a “permanent benefit” upon the land within the mechanic’s lien statute and thus, did not entitle the laborer to a mechanic’s lien. It is not the duty of the court to weigh the relative advantage to the owner of each structure erected on the land to determine whether there has been an improvement of the land sufficient to support a lien.
Because there is no bright line rule, a lienor is advised to serve a timely Notice to Owner at the outset of any work. Careful consideration can then be given to the validity of any lien that may be recorded and served for the work in question. But be careful, the risk of filing a lien on non-lienable work may be a judicial finding that the lien was improper and possibly fraudulent, subjecting the hopeful lienor to attorney’s fees – not a good result.