Since opening our business in 1993, I have seen plenty of unnecessary hardship cases caused by customers selecting the wrong service. Some of these cases have caused serious detriment to companies and in some situations, have even caused businesses to have to close their doors. In the interest of preserving the integrity of the prelien industry, I would like to share with you some of the knowledge that I have gained over the years.

PRICING: Accurate Lien continually encounters clients that have had devastating results with the “I will beat anyone’s price” or “Why pay more” lien services. These catch phrases seem to indicate new or desperate companies. The saying “you get what you pay for” may be applicable. Beware that many prelien services quote pricing without postage.  Saving a few dollars should not be a priority with something as important as collecting your money. It could be the most expensive mistake of your career.

CREDIBILITY: Over the years, several potential clients have come to Accurate Lien to complete a mechanic's lien. Their lien service usually did their preliens and liens, but recently they could not get in contact with the lien service. It turns out that their lien service had just disappeared.  There was no notice, no forwarding information and no returned phone calls. They did not have to lock the office door behind them, since they apparently worked out of their home.  However, the documentation that was required to do a mechanics lien could only be provided by the lien service that did the preliminary notice.  Since the documentation was not available, the mechanic’s lien could not be filed and these clients lost all lien rights.

Whether you currently have a lien service or are looking for one, it will pay to do your research.  The following items should be considered:

1. Go to their office and see their operation. A post office box as a main address is usually a dead give away that there is no commercial office. A 2 part suite i.e. Suite 110-106 is usually a private mailbox location.

2. Verify their ownership and time in business through the Secretary of State or Corporation Commission in the home state of the lien service.

3. Verify that Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions) is in effect annually. General Liability insurance is of no help to you. When in doubt, ask for a certificate of insurance.

4. Arizona requires lien services to be Certified Legal Document Preparers through the Arizona Supreme Court. It is conceivable that a lien could be ruled invalid due to lack of certification.

TECHNOLOGY: Lien service technology ranges from:

1. None

2. Obsolete systems that require installation of executable programs on your PC along with updates. Many times these require daily synchronization.

3. Packaged software systems that are ill suited to lien services.

4. Glorified Email Systems that claim to be real time, interactive internet systems, but actually are not. If all changes in the data are not automatic, then it is not real time. Behind the scenes could be scary.

5. A true real time internet system will make a lien service accountable for their action or inaction. You know exactly what they are doing and the steps they have taken with your prelien requests via time stamped research notes. They cannot "sweep it under the rug" like other systems. This is a must when evaluating lien services.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Demand a preliminary lien notice service that treats you like you are important to them. The following should be standard:

1. A live person answers the phone and directs your phone call accordingly.

2. A returned call within hours after leaving a voicemail

3. Requests for information are completed promptly.

4. In house IT staff will help as needed relating to their system.

ACCURACY: Since an average of only 1 out of 100 preliens turns into a collection problem, due to the odds of probability, many mistakes by inaccurate lien services may go unrealized for years.  A customer may believe that they have a great lien service until the day comes when they are unable to move forward with a claim and then reality hits them. This can be a very expensive realization.

RESEARCH: Research should be a major expense for lien services. County assessor records are helpful, but many times are not updated timely. Private, pay per search, services should supplement the free public service, whenever possible, since they are updated more frequently. If possible, telephone and fax contact with up-chain parties should be performed.  Records of all of these contacts and sources must be noted in the lien program and any supporting documentation needs to be saved.

FINANCIAL STABILITY: Verify that tax liens and judgments are not recorded on the lien service. We have seen several lien services with the above. This should raise a red flag and you should not use this service.

By taking these items into consideration, you can be assured of having the right lien service. Once problems start, it may be too late to rectify the situation. Do not risk the success of your business by choosing the wrong lien service.

*Accurate Lien provides information as a courtesy to our clients however we do not give legal advice. We strongly recommend that you consult legal counsel regarding lien and bond laws.

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