Mechanic’s liens can be a useful tool in researching the history of your house. What is a mechanic’s lien? It is a security interest in the title of a piece of property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. Mechanic’s liens have been in existence in the United States since the 1700s, offering protection to contractors and subcontractors in the event of non-payment on services or materials rendered. If your previous property owners owed money due to work performed on the land or building, then a mechanic’s lien may have been filed.
Where can you find out about mechanic’s liens? Start with an Internet search of mechanic’s lien records along with the name of the city the property is located in. For example, a search of “mechanics lien records st. louis” resulted in the information that local lien records are at the Recorder of Deeds office, and also that the Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative has digitized liens filed in the St. Louis court system from April 24, 1824 to December 31, 1875. Perhaps your city or state also has records available online.
What might you find in a mechanic’s lien? The petition for lien may include the statement of the lien, a description of the property, the account of work done, and the affidavit of the plaintiff (the person filing the lien). You should also see a notification to the owner and an account statement listing the materials and/or labor provided. So the lien may not only give you the name of a previous homeowner, but also a description of work that was being done on the house or building. It is worth doing a search to see if you can find a mechanic’s lien on your property.