LIEN PRIORITY FOLLOW-UP: The Operative Statutes

Following-up my July 3 post concerning a potential priority dispute between a construction lender and a contractor, I thought it might be beneficial to set out the key statutes in full.  Here are the provisions, both of which are in Indiana's mechanic's lien statute.   

IC 32-28-3-2
"Extent of lien; leased or mortgaged land"
    Sec 2. (a) The entire land upon which the building, erection, or other improvement is situated, including the part of the land not occupied by the building, erection, or improvement, is subject to a lien to the extent of the right, title, and interest of the owner for whose immediate use of benefit the labor was done or material furnished.
    (b) If:
        (1) the owner has only a leasehold interest; or
        (2) the land is encumbered by mortgage;
the lien, so far as concerns the buildings erected by the lienholder, is not impaired by forfeiture of the lease for rent or foreclosure of mortgage. The buildings may be sold to satisfy the lien and may be removed not later than ninety (90) days after the sale by the purchaser.

IC 32-28-3-5
"Recording notice; priority of lien"
    Sec. 5. (a) As used in this section, "lender" refers to:
        (1) an individual;
        (2) a supervised financial organization (as defined in IC 24-4.5-1-301);
        (3) an insurance company or a pension fund; or
        (4) any other entity that has the authority to make loans.
    (b) The recorder shall record the statement and notice of intention to hold a lien when presented under section 3 of this chapter in the miscellaneous record book. The recorder shall charge a fee for recording the statement and notice in accordance with IC 36-2-7-10. When the statement and notice of intention to hold a lien is recorded, the lien is created. The recorded lien relates back to the date the mechanic or other person began to perform the labor or furnish the materials or machinery. Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d), a lien created under this chapter has priority over a lien created after it.
    (c) The lien of a mechanic or materialman does not have priority over the lien of another mechanic or materialman.
    (d) The mortgage of a lender has priority over all liens created under this chapter that are recorded after the date the mortgage was recorded, to the extent of the funds actually owed to the lender for the specific project to which the lien rights relate. This subsection does not apply to a lien that relates to a construction contract for the development, construction, alteration, or repair of the following:
        (1) A Class 2 structure (as defined in IC 22-12-1-5).
        (2) An improvement on the same real estate auxiliary to a Class 2 structure (as defined in IC 22-12-1-5).
        (3) Property that is:
            (A) owned, operated, managed, or controlled by:
                (i) a public utility (as defined in IC 8-1-2-1);
                (ii) a municipally owned utility (as defined in IC 8-1-2-1);
                (iii) a joint agency (as defined in IC 8-1-2.2-2);
                (iv) a rural electric membership corporation formed under IC 8-1-13-4;
                (v) a rural telephone cooperative corporation formed under IC 8-1-17; or
                (vi) a not-for-profit utility (as defined in IC 8-1-2-125);
            regulated under IC 8; and
            (B) intended to be used and useful for the production, transmission, delivery, or furnishing of heat, light, water, telecommunications services, or power to the public.

(Remember that, as to mortgages, Indiana is a "first to file" state.  I.C. 32-21-4-1(b) provides that a "mortgage ... takes priority according to the time of its filing" in the recorder's office.)

My partner Tom Hanahan, who often represents lenders on the front end of construction deals, informs me that title companies in Indiana usually will not insure absolute priority over mechanic's liens, where construction has commenced before recording of the mortgage, without securing indemnity from the principals of the borrower.  In speaking with Tom, I gather that the title lawyers have noted the potentially-inconsistent language in Ind. Code 32-28-3-5 and 32-28-3-2, about which I discussed in my prior post.  I highlighted the areas of potential conflict.  Judge for yourself.