This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
Sec. 668. General Considerations.
669. Mechanics' liens.
670. Judgment liens.
671. Attachment liens.
672. Execution liens.
673. Liens for taxes and assessments.
674. The lien of decedent's debts.
675. Liens on crops.
676. Lien for improvements.
677. Widow's allowance.
Since, at common law, no lien upon land was recognized, the only liens which can at the present day be imposed thereon, apart from equitable liens, and mortgages, the lien idea of which is the creation of equity, are those authorized by statute, known as "statutory liens." The legislatures of the various states, in providing for such liens, have followed the same general lines of policy, and there are, it is believed, in but few states liens of a character not referred to in the following sections.
If the statute provides a method of enforcing such a lien, of a reasonably adequate character, equity will not ordinarily assume jurisdiction for the purpose.1
669. Mechanics' liens. A mechanic's lien is a lien on land, and on the fixtures and improvements thereon, created by statute, to secure the compensation of persons who, under contract with the owner, or some person authorized in his behalf, contribute labor or materials to the improvement of the land.
1. 1 Jones, Liens, Sec. 94.
Persons entitled to lien. The statute usually provides that any person furnishing labor or materials for the erection or repair of a building shall have a lien on the land and the building, and it sometimes specifically names certain classes of persons so en titled, such as "mechanics," "laborers," "materialmen," "builders," or the like.2 A lien of this same general character is also sometimes given for work not in connection with the erection or repair of buildings, as for work upon bridges, canals, railroads, mines, fences, or machinery.3
The earlier mechanic's lien statutes sometimes protected only those who furnished labor or materials otherwise than by direct contract with the owner of the land, and did not give a lien to a person contracting directly with the owner.4 The present statutes, however, always give a lien to a person furnishing labor or materials by direct contract with the owner, who is usually known as the "contractor."5
A "subcontractor" that is, a person furnishing labor, not by contract with the owner, but by contract with the contractor, is in most states entitled to a lien.6
In undertaking to give to a subcontractor a lien for his labor, two different theories or systems have been adopted in the statutes of the different states. By one system, sometimes known as the "New York" system, a subcontractor is given a lien by way of "subrogation," as it is expressed, to the rights of the contractor, that is, he stands in the place of the contractor, and cannot claim a lien for a sum greater than that due to the contractor at such time as the subcon2. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec.Sec. 1961, 1962.
3. See, as to the statutes creating liens for work done in and about mines, Barringer & Adams, Mines, 771; for work done upon railroads, 2 Jones, Liens, Sec.Sec. 1618-1625; Boiscot, Mech. Liens, Sec.Sec. 188205.
4. Phillips, Mech. Liens, Sec.Sec. 41, 42.
5. Phillips, Mech. Liens, 36, 40; Boisot, Mech. Liens, Sec. 218.
6. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec. 1966; Phillip's Mech. Liens, 44, 45.
Tractor may give notice of his claim to the owner, who is thus enabled to withhold from the principal contractor sufficient to satisfy the claim of the subcontractor.7 Under the other system, sometimes termed the "Pennsylvania" system, the subcontractor is given a direct lien, without reference to the rights of the contractor, and consequently the owner ordinarily acts at his peril if he makes any payments to the contractor, unless he has first satisled himself that the subcontractor's claims are paid.7a So, while under the New York system the subcontractor has no lien if the con-contractor's default in his contract leaves nothing owing to the latter,8 such default does not, under the Pennsylvania system, affect the subcontractor's lien for the full amount of his claim.9 But even where the latter system prevails, the subcontractor's right to a lien arises from the original contract between the owner and the contractor, and he cannot claim for work not authorized by such contract, nor demand payment in a mode other than that named therein.10
7. See Greene v. Robinson, 110 Ala. 503, 20 So. 65; Renton v. Conley, 49 Cal. 185; McIntire v. Barnes, 4 Colo. 288; Hathorne v. Panama Park Co., 44 Fla. 194, 103 Am. St. Rep. 138, 32 So. 812; Culver v. Elwell, 73 Ill. 536; Wick-ham v. Monroe, 89 Iowa, 666, 57 N. W. 354; Henry & Coatsworth v. Horton Hardware Co., 56 Kan. 448, 43 Pac. 769; Cudworth v. Bostwick, 69 N. H. 536, 45 Atl. 4C8; Larkin v. McMullin, 120 N. Y. 206, 24 N. E. 447; St. Peter's Catholic Church v. Vannote, 66 N. J. Eq. 78, 56 Atl. 103; Cope-land v. Manton, 22 Ohio St. 398; Berry v. McAdams, 93 Tex. 431, 55 S. W. 1112.
7a. Andis v. Davis, 63 Ind. 17; Bowen v. Phinney, 162 Mass. 593, 44 Am. St. Rep. 391, 39 N. E. 283; Laird v. Moonan, 32 Minn. 358, 20 N. W. 354; Henry & Coatsworth Co. v. Evans, 97 Mo. 47, 3 L. R. A. 332, 10 S. W. 8G8; Merrigan v. English, 9 Mont. 113, 5 L. R. A.
837, 22 Pac. 454; Hunter v. Truckee Lodge, 14 Nev. 24; Robertson Lumber Co. v. State Bank of Edin-burg, 14 N. D. 511, 105 N. W. 719; White v. Miller, 18 Pa. St. 52; Linden Steel Co. v. Rough Run Mfg. Co., 158 Pa. St. 238, 27 Atl. 895; Green v. Williams, 92 Tenn. 220, 19 L. R. A. 478, 21 S. W. 520; Mallory v. La Crosse Ab-battoir Co., 80 Wis. 170, 49 N. W. 1071.
8. Wiggins v. Bridge, 70 Cal. 437, 11 Pac. 754; Hunnicutt, etc., Co. v. Van Hoose, 111 Ga. 518, 36 S. E. 669; Epeneter v. Montgomery, County, 98 Iowa, 159, 67 N. W. 93; Jewell v. Peron, 94 Mich. 83, 53 N. W. 951; Mayer v. Mutch-ler, 50 N. J. L. 162, 13 Atl. 620; Kelly v. Bloomingdale, 139 N. Y. 343, 34 N. E. 919; Smith v. Sheltering Arms, 89 Hun. (N. Y.) 70, 35 N. Y. Supp. 62; Fullenwider v. Longmoor, 73 Tex. 480, 11 S. W. 500.