Securing Mechanic’s Liens in Rhode Island During the COVID-19 Crisis

The current COVID-19 crisis has complicated all facets of life, including securing mechanic’s liens.  Properly notarizing your lien and recording the lien are crucial steps to securing a valid and enforceable mechanic’s lien in Rhode Island. While Rhode Island has implemented some procedures to remotely notarize documents and in some instances, e-record documents, neither procedure is without its hiccups.

One of the first crucial steps in securing your mechanic’s lien is filing your notice of intention (“NOI”) pursuant to RIGL § 34-28-4.  The statute requires that the NOI be executed under oath.  With mandated office closures and social distancing orders in place for the foreseeable future, how do you go about completing this essential step?  On April 3, 2020, the Rhode Island Secretary of State announced that it is temporarily allowing remote online notarization (“RON”).  RON, while helpful under these circumstances, presents its own headaches.  Here are the steps to get your NOI notarized:

  1. Find a notary who is authorized to perform RON.  The temporary RON requires current or new notaries to utilize recognized and approved service providers (currently, DocVerify, Inc. or Paravaso) for RON transactions and submit an application to be an authorized RON notary to the State.
  2. Once you have located a notary authorized to perform RON, you then must send the document to be notarized to the notary.
  3. Next, perform the RON procedure with the notary.  This procedure requires a web camera and internet connection.  The notary will be able to walk you through this process but note that Zoom and FaceTime are not permitted to perform remote notarization.
  4. Mail your signed document to the notary for application of the notary’s official stamp.  Ask the notary to send the final notarized document to you or your attorney.

The NOI must be served on the property owner within 200 days of completing the work or furnishing the materials, so the additional time to complete the remote notarization must be factored in.

Now that the NOI is notarized, it must still be recorded in the land evidence records in the city or town in which the land as described in the NOI is located.  Most city or town halls are closed to general foot traffic in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus but are accepting recordings by mail.  The appropriate recording fee should accompany the documents to be recorded.  Some towns in Rhode Island are even encouraging e-recording.  For example, Providence is accepting e-recording through CSC Global.  A computer, scanner, and internet connection are required for e-recording.  See Providence Recorder of Deeds website for additional information.  Pawtucket, Richmond, Smithfield, and Westerly also use CSC to e-record documents.

Within 40 days of filing your NOI, you must then file your complaint and lis pendens.  The lis pendens should follow the same notarization and recording procedures described above but within a much shorter time frame.  It is important to accurately calculate filing deadlines so as not to lose your mechanic’s lien.

Additional information concerning mechanic’s liens can be founder here and here.  Although COVID-19 has modified some procedures for mechanic’s liens in Rhode Island, Pierce Atwood’s Construction Group is ready and willing to answer your questions and assist you in preserving your mechanic’s lien rights.