Can a contractor file a lien without a contract?

The mechanic’s lien process is complicated in the State of Texas. From restrictive deadlines to staunch paperwork requirements, there are a lot of rules. And to further complicate things, many Texas Construction Law regulations involve complicated “exceptions” – and whether or not you need a written contract is one of them. For the most part, all contractors, subcontractors, laborers, design professionals, materials suppliers, and equipment suppliers who provide labor or materials to a property in Texas are not required to have a written contract (a verbal contract is sufficient) to qualify for the right to file a lien. So, what are the exceptions to this rule? Let’s break it down.

There are two factors to consider when determining if a contractor can file a lien without a written contract in Texas, and they are the type of property and the type of service involved. 

Exception #1: Type of Property

Contractors can file a lien on a property without a written contract in most cases. However, if the project in question is on a residential homestead property, a written contract must be filed in the local property records and is required to enforce mechanic’s lien filing rights. In Texas, a homestead is the person’s primary residence, and it includes both the structure and the property. If you are working on a residential homestead property, you must have a formal written contract to file a mechanic’s lien against the property.  There are additional legal requirements to file a lien against a homestead that are not addressed in this paper.  You should consult your attorney if you are attempting to assert lien rights against a homestead property.

In the case of commercial construction project or residential construction project that is non-homestead property, a verbal contract is usually sufficient, and a written contract is not required to preserve your rights to file a mechanic’s lien to pursue non-payment on a project.

Exception #2: The Service Provided

Now that we’ve covered the type of property where a written contract is always required to pursue your mechanic’s lien rights let’s look at the other exception. This one involves the type and kind of service you’re providing and where you fall in the project hierarchy. 

According to Chapter 53 of the Texas Property Code, an architect, engineer, or surveyor, must have a written contract with the project owner, owner’s agent, trustee, or receiver in connection with the actual or proposed design, construction, or repair of improvements on real property to have a lien.  However, landscapers, landscape materials suppliers, including construction of retaining walls, berms, irrigation, fountains, or similar installation, must also have a written contract, but it can be with the project owner or the owner’s agent, contractor, subcontractor, trustee, or receiver.  Similarly, demolition service providers, must also have a written contract to establish lien rights, but it can be with the project owner or the owner’s agent, contractor, subcontractor, trustee, or receiver to have a lien.

How do I know if I qualify?

Wondering if a contractor can file a lien without a contract is only one of the many questions surrounding the mechanic’s lien process. We have compiled a very comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions on the Texas Easy Lien website around the topics of deadlines, required forms, qualifications, and more.

The mechanic’s lien process in Texas is one of the more complicated in the country, which is why we have made it as simple and straightforward as possible. We’ve assembled all of the proper forms, guidelines, and deadlines – all in one place. And best of all? You can do everything online. Get started by seeing if you qualify for a mechanic’s lien – finding out is free! Get started at

Get your mechanic’s lien documents in just 15 minutes