What happens if a mechanic works on an aircraft and then the aircraft owner refuses to pay for the work? The answer that first comes to mind for most mechanics is: Put a mechanic or artisan lien on the aircraft. That’s a good answer, and a good option, when it is available. It is quick, doesn’t require the aircraft owner’s consent and will likely prevent the aircraft from being sold until either the mechanic is paid or the mechanic releases, or a court orders the mechanic to release, the lien. However, filing a mechanic or artisan lien against an aircraft may not always be possible.
Depending upon the circumstances, and the state in which the work was performed, filing a mechanic or artisan lien against the aircraft may not be an option. It may be too late; too much time may have passed since the mechanic completed the work. The mechanic may no longer have possession of the aircraft. The work may have been performed in a state from which the FAA Registry will not accept a mechanic or artisan lien claim. However, even if a mechanic or artisan lien is not a viable option, the mechanic may yet be able to obtain a lien against the aircraft.
The mechanic would need to sue the aircraft owner and obtain a judgment against both the aircraft owner and the aircraft. Once a judgment is obtained, it can then be filed with the FAA Registry which will create a judgment lien against the aircraft. Unfortunately, this option isn’t as quick as filing a mechanic or artisan lien and it is more expensive. However, similar to a mechanic or artisan lien, a judgment lien will also likely prevent the aircraft from being sold until the mechanic’s claim is resolved. And, once the judgment lien is obtained, the mechanic could foreclose upon the aircraft to try and collect the amount the mechanic is owed.
The moral of the story: If you work in a state that allows for filing of aircraft mechanic or artisan liens with the FAA Registry, make sure you know the legal requirements for asserting a lien claim and follow them. If you don’t follow them or if you live in one of the few states from which the FAA Registry will not accept a mechanic or artisan lien claim, a judgment may still allow you to put a lien on an aircraft.