Arizona Lien Law and Timelines

Arizona Lien Laws

Understanding the Arizona Lien Law Timeline is vital for homeowners, contractors, and legal professionals. This article dives into the legalities and timelines of lien laws in Arizona, offering clarity and guidance.

In Arizona, the lien law timeline is crucial for anyone involved in construction, be it contractors, subcontractors, or property owners. Understanding this timeline ensures that all parties can protect their rights effectively. Here’s a detailed step-by-step breakdown of the Arizona lien law timeline, highlighting key deadlines and processes:

  1. Project Commencement: The timeline unofficially starts when work on the property begins. This could be the start date of construction, renovation, or any significant modification work.
  2. Preliminary 20-Day Notice: One of the most critical steps in the Arizona lien process is the Preliminary 20-Day Notice. Contractors and subcontractors must serve this Notice within 20 days of beginning work or supplying materials. This Notice preserves the right to file a lien later if needed.
  3. Completion of Work: Completing the work on the property is a significant date in the lien timeline. The definition of ‘completion’ can vary, but it generally means when the work is substantially done.
  4. Recording the Lien: After the completion of work, if payment has not been received, contractors and subcontractors have a specific window to record a lien. In Arizona, this period is within 90 days of completion of the work, the last furnishing of materials or labor, or when the property is abandoned.
  5. Serving the Lien: After recording the lien, the claimant is required to serve a copy of the lien to the property owner. This is typically required to be done within a reasonable time frame, usually 30 days after recording the lien.
  6. Enforcing the Lien: Simply recording a lien does not automatically ensure payment. To enforce the lien, the claimant must file a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien. This must be done in Arizona within six months of recording the lien.
  7. Release of Lien: If the claimant is paid, they must release the lien. This is done by filing a lien release in the same county where the original lien was recorded. There’s no strict timeline, but it should be done promptly after receiving payment.
  8. Expiration of Lien: If no action is taken to enforce the lien within six months of its recording, the lien expires and becomes unenforceable


In Arizona, various types of liens can be applied depending on the situation and the nature of the debt. These liens serve as legal claims or hold on the property as security for the payment of a debt or performance of an obligation. Here’s an exploration of different types of liens, including mechanic’s liens, tax liens, judgment liens, construction notices, and medical liens:

  1. Mechanic’s Liens: These are used by contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers in construction. Mechanic’s liens ensure payment for labor or materials supplied to improve a property. In Arizona, these liens must be filed within a specific timeframe after the completion of work.
  2. Tax Liens: Tax liens are imposed by the government for unpaid taxes. In Arizona, if property taxes are not paid, the county can place a lien on the property. This lien has priority over most other liens and remains attached to the property until the tax debt is paid.
  3. Judgment Liens: When a court awards a financial judgment to a creditor, a judgment lien can be placed on the debtor’s property. This lien ensures the creditor can collect the amount owed if the property is sold. In Arizona, judgment liens can be attached to both real and personal property.
  4. Construction Notices: In Arizona, a preliminary 20-day notice is often used in the construction industry. While not a lien itself, it’s a prerequisite for filing a mechanic’s lien. It notifies the property owner, general contractor, and lender of the claimant’s involvement in the project and the potential right to file a lien.
  5. Medical Liens: Medical liens are used by healthcare providers to ensure they receive payment for medical services rendered, typically due to an injury for which another party is liable. Arizona’s hospitals and other medical providers can place a lien on a personal injury claim or lawsuit settlement.

Each type of lien has specific rules and procedures, especially regarding how they are filed, enforced, and eventually released. It’s crucial for individuals and businesses in Arizona to understand these differences, especially how they impact rights and obligations concerning property and debt repayment.


Preliminary notices play a crucial role in the lien process, particularly in states like Arizona. These notices, often referred to as “pre-lien notices” or “20-day preliminary notices,” are essential for several reasons, and understanding their requirements and impact on lien rights is vital for anyone involved in construction, renovation, or supplying materials for a project.

Importance of Preliminary Notices:

  1. Protecting Lien Rights: In many cases, serving a preliminary notice is a prerequisite for maintaining the right to file a mechanic’s lien. If a contractor or supplier fails to provide this Notice, they may forfeit their lien rights.
  2. Notification to Property Owners: Preliminary notices inform property owners about who is contributing labor or materials to their property. This awareness can help ensure all parties are paid and prevent surprise liens.
  3. Enhancing Communication: These notices facilitate better communication between property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, leading to more transparency in the construction process.

Requirements of Preliminary Notices:

In Arizona, the requirements for preliminary notices are specific:

  1. Timing: The Notice must be served within 20 days of the claimant beginning work or supplying materials. While late notices can still be served, they will only protect lien rights for the work done 20 days prior to and after the Notice is served.
  2. Content: The Notice must include specific information such as the legal description of the property, the name of the person who contracted for the work, and a general description of the labor or materials provided.
  3. Method of Delivery: Arizona law requires that the Notice be sent via registered or certified mail, with a return receipt requested, to the necessary parties, which usually include the property owner, the prime contractor, and the construction lender.

Impact on Lien Rights:

  1. Preservation of Rights: Serving a preliminary notice is a legal requirement for preserving the right to file a mechanic’s lien. Without this Notice, a subcontractor or supplier may lose the right to secure their payment through a lien.
  2. Priority of Payment: In some cases, the date of the preliminary Notice can affect the priority of payment in a situation where multiple liens are filed on the same property.
  3. Legal Standing: Properly serving a preliminary notice strengthens the legal standing of a subcontractor or supplier in case of non-payment, providing them with a more solid ground in any legal action for debt recovery.

The role of preliminary notices in the AZ lien process is significant. They serve as a foundation for protecting lien rights and ensuring fair and transparent practices in construction and renovation projects.


Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers must understand and adhere to the requirements of these notices to safeguard their rights and financial interests effectively.


Steps to File a Lien in Arizona

  1. Ensure Eligibility: Before filing a lien, ensure you have a valid reason, such as unpaid work, labor, or materials provided for a construction project.
  2. Serve a Preliminary 20-Day Notice: As discussed earlier, this Notice must be served within 20 days of starting work. Subcontractors and material suppliers need to preserve their right to file a lien.
  3. Prepare the Lien Document: The lien document, also known as a “Claim of Lien,” must include specific information:
  • The legal description of the property.
  • The name of the property owner.
  • The amount claimed.
  • The services or materials provided.
  • The name and address of the person or entity filing the lien.
  • The first and last dates of work or material provision.
  1. Notarization: The lien document must be notarized to be considered legally valid.
  2. File the lien with the County Recorder: The lien must be filed in the county where the property is located. This should be done within 90 days of the last day of providing labor, services, or materials or within 60 days if the property is a residence.
  3. Serve the Property Owner: A copy must be sent to the owner after filing the lien. This is typically required to be done within a reasonable timeframe, usually within 30 days.

Required Documents

  • Preliminary 20-Day Notice.
  • Claim of Lien (the lien document).
  • Proof of service of the Preliminary Notice and the Lien on the property owner.

Legal Considerations

  1. Timeliness: Adhering to the specified timeframes is crucial. Late filing can invalidate the lien.
  2. Accuracy: Ensure all information in the lien document is accurate. Errors can lead to disputes and potential invalidation of the lien.
  3. Property Description: Reliance on the tax assessor’s information or a street address alone is not advisable. The legal description of the property must be precise.
  4. Amount Claimed: The amount claimed must be reflective of the work done. Overstating the amount can lead to penalties, including potential accusations of fraudulent liens.
  5. Foreclosure of Lien: If payment is not received, the next step is to enforce the lien through a foreclosure lawsuit. This action must be initiated in Arizona within six months of the lien’s recording.
  6. Release of Lien: Once payment is received, it’s necessary to file a lien release in the same county recorder’s office where the original lien was filed.


Deadlines and Timelines: Critical Dates For Contractors and Subcontractors

  1. Preliminary 20-Day Notice:
  • Deadline: Within 20 days of beginning work or supplying materials.
  • Importance: This Notice is essential for preserving the right to file a lien. While it can be served late, it will only cover labor or materials provided 20 days before and after issuance.
  1. Filing the Lien:
  • Deadline: Within 90 days of the last provision of labor, services, or materials, or 60 days for residential projects.
  • Importance: Filing within this period is crucial for the lien to be valid.
  1. Serving the Lien:
  • Deadline: Typically within 30 days after recording the lien.
  • Importance: The property owner must be formally notified of the lien for it to be enforceable.
  1. Enforcing the Lien (Lien Foreclosure):
  • Deadline: Within six months of recording the lien.
  • Importance: If unpaid, legal action to enforce the lien must be initiated within this period; otherwise, the lien becomes void.

For Property Owners

  1. Responding to Preliminary Notices:
  • While there’s no legal deadline for a response, staying informed about who has a potential lien claim on your property is wise.
  1. Addressing Filed Liens:
  • Upon receiving a lien notice, it’s critical to address it promptly. While there’s no specific deadline for the property owner to respond, unresolved liens can lead to foreclosure actions.
  1. Disputing a Lien:
  • If there’s a dispute over the validity of the lien, legal advice should be sought immediately. Prompt action is advisable while there’s no specific deadline for challenging a lien.

General Timelines

  1. Lien Duration:
  • A filed lien in Arizona will remain valid for six months from the date of recording unless a foreclosure action is initiated.
  1. Lien Release:
  • After the lien amount is paid, the claimant should release the lien promptly. While there’s no strict legal deadline for this, removing the lien as soon as the debt is cleared is a good practice.


Rights and Obligations of Property Owners

Property owners have specific rights and responsibilities that are important to understand, especially when dealing with construction projects and potential liens on their property. Here’s an outline of these rights and responsibilities:

Rights of Property Owners

  1. Right to Receive Preliminary Notices: Property owners have the right to be informed about who is providing labor, services, or materials to their property, usually through preliminary 20-day notices.
  2. Right to Dispute Liens: If a lien is filed, property owners have the right to challenge the validity of the lien. This includes disputing the amount claimed or the legitimacy of the lien itself.
  3. Right to Receive Lien Releases: Once the lien amount is paid or settled, property owners have the right to receive a lien release, clearing the lien from their property record.
  4. Right to Request Information: Property owners can request detailed information about the services or materials provided, which helps in understanding and verifying the basis of the lien.
  5. Right to a Clear Title: Upon satisfying the lien claim (either by paying it or successfully disputing it), property owners have the right to a clear title, free from the encumbrance of the lien.

Responsibilities of Property Owners

  1. Ensure Proper Contracts: It’s the responsibility of the property owner to have clear and legally binding contracts with the general contractor and to ensure that appropriate terms also bind subcontractors.
  2. Respond to Preliminary Notices: While not legally required, it’s prudent for property owners to respond to and keep track of all preliminary notices they receive.
  3. Address Liens Promptly: When a lien is filed, property owners should address it promptly, either by paying the due amount or by disputing the lien if it’s believed to be invalid.
  4. Ensure Timely Payments: Property owners should make timely payments to contractors and subcontractors as agreed in the contract to avoid liens.
  5. Record Lien Releases: After a lien is satisfied, it’s the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that a lien release is recorded with the county recorder’s office, clearing the title of their property.
  6. Manage Disputes: In case of disputes related to work quality or contractual disagreements, property owners are responsible for managing these disputes, ideally before they escalate to a lien being filed.


Contractor’s Legal Standing in Lien Claims

Legal Position of Contractors in Filing a Lien

  1. Right to File a Lien: Contractors have the legal right to file a mechanic’s lien against a property if they have not been paid for their labor, services, or materials provided.
  2. Pre-Lien Notice Requirement: In Arizona, contractors must serve a Preliminary 20-Day Notice within 20 days of beginning work or supplying materials. This Notice is crucial for maintaining the right to file a lien.
  3. Lien for Unpaid Work: Contractors can file a lien for the unpaid portion of their work. This includes the value of labor, materials, and any other services contractually agreed upon.
  4. Filing within Statutory Period: Contractors must file their lien within a specific timeframe – within 90 days after completing their work or within 60 days for residential properties.

Rights of Contractors in the Lien Process

  1. Right to Claim the Exact Owed Amount: Contractors can only claim the amount they rightfully owe. Overstating this amount can lead to legal penalties.
  2. Right to Enforce the Lien: If the lien is not paid, contractors have the right to enforce the lien through a foreclosure lawsuit within six months of its recording.
  3. Right to Interest and Legal Fees: Depending on the contract and state lien laws, contractors may have the right to claim interest on the unpaid amount and recover legal fees incurred in the lien process.
  4. Right to a Lien on the Entire Property: The lien can be placed on the entire property for the amount owed, regardless of the proportion of work done.

Responsibilities and Limitations

  1. Accurate Lien Filing: Contractors are responsible for filing accurate and legally compliant lien claims. This includes correct property descriptions and owed amounts.
  2. Meeting Deadlines: Contractors must adhere to all relevant deadlines, from the Preliminary 20-Day Notice to the filing and enforcement of the lien.
  3. No Lien for Breach of Contract: If a contractor fails to fulfill their contractual obligations, they may lose their right to file a lien.
  4. Lien Release Upon Payment: Once the lien amount is paid, the contractor is responsible for issuing a lien release to clear the title of the property.


Resolving Disputes: Navigating Lien Challenges

Here are some strategies and advice for effectively handling disputes, including both legal and mediation options:

Open Communication

  • Early Engagement: Address potential issues as soon as they arise. Open lines of communication can prevent misunderstandings from escalating into disputes.
  • Clear Documentation: Ensure all agreements, changes, and conversations are well-documented. This clarity can often resolve disputes before they grow.

Mediation and Negotiation

  • Seek Mediation: Mediation involves a neutral third party assisting the disputing parties with reaching a mutually agreeable solution. It’s less formal and often more cost-effective than litigation.
  • Negotiation: Parties can directly negotiate to find a common ground. This requires a willingness to understand the other party’s perspective and to make compromises.

Legal Consultation

  • Consult a Lawyer: Understanding the legal aspects of the dispute is crucial. A lawyer can advise on the best course of action.
  • Review Contractual Obligations: Often, the resolution lies within the details of the contract. Review the contract thoroughly to understand each party’s obligations and rights.

Utilize Dispute Resolution Clauses

  • Many construction contracts include dispute resolution clauses outlining steps to be taken in case of a disagreement. Follow these clauses closely.

Payment Plans

  • If the dispute is an overpayment, consider negotiating a payment plan. This can be a pragmatic approach to settling financial disagreements.

Lien Reduction or Removal

  • In some cases, agreeing to reduce or remove the lien in exchange for a guaranteed payment can be a solution. This can be effective in cases where the total amount is in dispute.


  • As an alternative to court proceedings, arbitration involves a neutral arbitrator deciding after hearing both sides. It’s more formal than mediation but can be quicker than court proceedings.


  • As a last resort, taking legal action through the courts can resolve the dispute. This is usually more time-consuming and expensive but is sometimes necessary when other methods fail.

Settlement Conferences

  • A settlement conference, often facilitated by a judge or an experienced attorney, can help the parties reach a settlement agreement before a case goes to trial.

Joint Inspection

  • In disputes over the quality of work, a joint inspection by both parties can help identify and agree on specific issues that must be addressed.



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