By: Thomas S. Tripodianos Published: September 2011

Does the identification of a single address in liens result in a blanket lien so that Owner can seek discharge and cancellation of liens as "blanket liens" improperly filed against the entire property?

Question. Owner is the sponsor and developer of Condominium's residential and commercial units. Plumbing performed work on the condo under three contracts, and filed three separate mechanic's liens regarding the work performed and materials furnished. The liens clearly identified the individual units Plumbing sought to encumber, satisfying Lien Law §9(7). Liens included 36 residential units Owner did not own at the time the liens were filed. At least 26 of the 243 lots originally owned by Owner were sold and recorded before the liens were filed. Does the identification of "100 XYZ Avenue" in the liens result in a blanket lien so that Owner can seek discharge and cancellation of the liens as "blanket liens" improperly filed against the entire property?

Answer. No.

BACKGROUND

Owner can move to discharge and cancel three notices of mechanic's liens filed by Plumbing against the subject property but because the liens substantially complied with the law, an amendment of the liens nunc pro tunc (pursuant to Lien Law §12-a ) to eliminate the lots conveyed before the filing would not prejudice any existing lienor or purchaser and Owner's petition to discharge and cancel the liens should be denied.

Owner is the sponsor and developer of the Condominium which includes 239 residential apartment units and four commercial units ("Condominium"). According to the declaration establishing a plan for the condominium ownership, the street address of the property is 150 XYZ Avenue, ("Condominium Property"). Plumbing performed work on the Condominium Property pursuant to three separate contracts between Plumbing and Owner's contractor.

Plumbing filed three separate notices of mechanic's ("Liens") with respect to the work allegedly performed pursuant to each of the contracts. The Liens claim a total amount of approximately $715,000.00. In all three Liens, the property subject to the Liens is identified as, "Premises known as 150 XYZ Avenue, more particularly described and as set forth in Exhibit "A" attached and Exhibit "B" pages 1-18 attached." Exhibit "A" of the Liens identifies two commercial units in the Condominium by block, lot, and unit number while exhibit "B" of the Liens identifies the two remaining commercial units and each of the block, lot, and unit numbers associated with the residential condominium units followed by the description, "SINGLE RESIDENTIAL CONDO UNIT." Exhibit "B" of the Liens also includes the prior lot number which has been superseded by the Condominium declaration, and is followed by the description, "APARTMENT BUILDING."

Prior to Plumbing's filing of the Liens, 36 of the residential units had been sold by the Owner. Owner argues that because the Liens specify the address "150 XYZ Avenue", the Liens were not limited to specific condominium units in which Owner retained an interest and were therefore "blanket liens."

A "blanket lien" is created with respect to a condominium development when the description of the property subject to the lien is not limited to the particular units of a condominium which are owned by the party liable to the lienor, thereby creating a lien on the entire property. A blanket lien, which is not valid as against the individual units, including the unsold units retained by the Owner, or the common elements of the condominium, should be summarily canceled pursuant to Lien Law §19(6) since it fails to adequately describe the property pursuant to Lien Law §9(7) in conformity with Real Property Law §339-l. However, as the Liens here clearly identify the individual units Plumbing sought to encumber, Owner's argument that the identification of "150 XYZ Avenue" resulted in the formation of a "blanket lien" is unavailing.

Where a lien description includes too much property, but nevertheless includes and identifies all the property on which the lien could properly be claimed, the defect is not fatal, as the lien would be limited and restricted only to that part against which it could properly be enforced.

Here, although Plumbing did file each of the Liens against the entire superseded lot number, Plumbing also identified the individual condominium units in the Liens and thereby sufficiently identified the property properly subject to the Liens so as to satisfy the requirements of Lien Law §9(7)

While at least 26 of the 243 lots originally owned by the Owner had been sold and recorded prior to the filing of the Liens, the Liens substantially complied with Lien Law §9(7) and the amendment of the Liens, nunc pro tunc, so as to eliminate the lots conveyed prior to the filing of the Liens will not prejudice any existing lienor or purchaser.

It seems clear from the language in [Real Property Law §339-l(2)] that the Legislature has chosen to distinguish between the rights of those performing labor on or furnishing materials to individual unit owners in a condominium, and the rights of those performing labor on or furnishing materials to the common elements of a condominium. In the case of labor performed or materials furnished to any unit owner, there can be no lien unless the unit owner expressly consents to the lien or unless the lien is for emergency repairs to such unit. As a number of the condominium units were transferred by the Owner prior to the filing of the Liens, and there are no allegations that the new owners consented to the Liens, the work was for emergency repairs, or that the labor and services allegedly provided by Plumbing were requested by the new owners, the Liens may not encumber the units transferred prior to the filing of the Liens even where the recording of the transfers occurred after the filing of the Liens.

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