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Filing a Lien & Getting the Property Description Right

When you file a lien on a property, Texas Property Code 53.054 requires you to include "a description legally sufficient for identification, of the property sought to be charged with the lien." But what does "legally sufficient for identification" really mean? Texas law has a history of leniency when it comes to validating property descriptions in liens.

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Public Policy

One of the reasons Texas courts are willing to validate vague, contradictory, or mistaken elements in a property description, is because Texas follows the policy of supporting lienholders. The Richardson court observed that, "Descriptive words should be liberally construed to protect laborers and materialmen." Richardson v Mid-Cities Drywall, Inc., 968 S.W.2d. 512, 514 (Tex. App.- Texarkana 1998, no pet.).

The standard for property descriptions in liens is substantial compliance. Id. As long as your lien contains a nucleus of description of the property, and the land is capable of being identified with certainty, you are in substantial compliance with the statute. Palomita Inc. v. Medley, 747 S.W.2d 575, 576 (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi 1988, no writ) and Berry v Wright, 14 Tex. 270, 273 (1855).

Examples of Valid Property Descriptions

There are numerous cases that show a lien filed with incorrect or vague information can still be substantially compliant, if there is something in the lien that can cause the land to be reasonably identified.

In AMS Const. Co., Inc., v. Warm Springs Rehab. Found., Inc., the lien affidavit listed the wrong county, but because it also listed the correct address, and the owner at the same address as the land at issue, the court determined there was enough information for the land to be identified with reasonable certainty. AMS Const. Co. Inc. v. Warm Springs Rehab. Found., Inc., 94 S.W.3d 152, 162 (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi 2002, no pet.).

Rheem Acceptance Corp. v Rowe, involved a lien description that listed the wrong lot number. The Court cited several cases where an affidavit was valid despite having a very general property description ("...the brick city hall building to be erected in the city of Hillsboro...building to be erected on Avenue E..."). In deciding the case, the court stated, "...had the description not even mentioned the lot, block and subdivision it still would have been sufficient." Also, because the correct address was clearly stated, and because there likely wouldn't be two houses in the same city and county with the same address, a party familiar with the location would have been able to identify the premises with reasonable certainty. Rheem Acceptance Corp. v. Rowe, 332 S.W.2d 353, 354 (Tex. Civ. App.- Amarillo 1959, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

The court has upheld descriptions that included wrong street addresses, listed only a property owner, and even land described as "...the 1,500 acres as those on which [lienholder] performed clearing, leveling, and 'dirt work.'" Myers v Houston, 88 Tex. 126, 129 S. W. 912, 913 (1895), Blanco, Inc. v. Porras, 897 F.2d 788, 791 (5th Cir. 1990). In each case, the land was clearly distinguished from all others.

Examples of Invalid Property Descriptions

Property descriptions that only describe the land as part of a larger tract have been found void. Trinity Nat. Bank of Dallas v. Criswell, 05-90-01418-CV, 1991 WL 141444, at 4 (Tex. App.- Dallas July 31, 1991, writ denied). Listing only the amount of acreage worked on within a larger lot of land is not specific enough to attach a lien. Also, if you include the street address along with the metes and bounds, you must include language connecting the two in order for the lien to be found valid, i.e. "More commonly known as...". Id. (See also, Perkins Const. Co. v. Ten-Fifteen Corp., 545 S.W.2d 494, 500 (Tex. Civ. App.- San Antonio 1976, no writ).

Ultimately, in construing lien laws, the courts are on the lienholder's side, particularly when it comes to property descriptions. Making sure to include the correct legal description, and the correct street address is a safe way to ensure you are in substantial compliance when drafting your lien affidavit. But even without it, you may still have enough in your description for your lien to be upheld.

With a concentration in business, construction and real estate law, The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, is committed to providing results driven, cost-effective and personalized representation to each one our clients. Contact us today to learn more about our in-depth experience handling both lien filings and removals, and how we can assist you.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.

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