Unsigned Contracts Will Not Support a Mechanic’s Lien

The Massachusetts District Court Appellate
Division recently upheld a municipal court trial judge’s order dissolving a
mechanic’s lien because written proposals between a contractor and a property
owner were never signed.

In the case of Petrucelli Construction Co., Inc. v. Hirain Barrios, the
appellate division ruled that Massachusetts law requires that written contracts
must be "signed by the party to be charged" in order to be
enforceable. The mechanic’s lien statute G.L.c. 254, § 2A defines a written
contract as "any written contract enforceable under the laws of the
Commonwealth." 

In Petrucelli,
because the contractor’s three proposals to the real property owner were never
signed, there was no enforceable written contract upon which a mechanic’s lien
could be founded. As a result, the appellate division upheld the trial court’s
dissolution of the contractor’s mechanic’s lien.

The Petrucelli decision is a bright line
reminder to contractors that in order to maintain an enforceable mechanic’s
lien, you must have a written contract signed by the real property owner.
Thereafter, you must also strictly adhere to the steps and timetables set forth
in M.G.L.c. 254 to perfect it.

If you would like more information about the
mechanic’s lien, or have questions about any construction law issue, please
contact Hugh
J. Gorman, III
, the author of this alert. Hugh is chair of Prince
Lobel’s Construction
Law Practice Group
and can be reached at 617 456 8093 or hgorman@princelobel.com.