How long does a contractor have to file a lien?
An aggrieved contractor/supplier has until 90 days after completion of his work (or after he leaves the job) to record a lien.
See RCW 60.04.091 which provides in part as follows: “every person claiming a lien shall file a notice of claim of lien no later than ninety days after the person has ceased to furnish labor, professional services materials or equipment.”
Remember: this rule is statutory and is therefore strictly construed. This means that the lien must be filed within the time frame described above. Starting on the 91st day after cessation of the contractor’s work, the lien is no longer of any affect.
Said differently, if the lien is not filed within 90 days, the contractor has no lien rights whatsoever.
If the contractor ignores this rule and records a lien after 90 days, he will be subject to RCW 60.04.081 and the specter of the lien being stricken. Even worse, filing a frivolous lien does not come without a price; should one file a frivolous lien there is the other sides’ attorneys’ fees and costs to consider.
To the homeowner: if a lien is recorded against your property, you will want to determine if the contractor filed his lien in time-and where it is appropriate to do so, you will want to tell the contractor to remove the lien or you will have the lien removed by filing under the frivolous lien statute.
To the contractor: always remember the ninety day requirement. If you miss the deadline, no lien. This is one of the relatively few kinds of mistakes that will lead to an improper lien being thrown out.
If you want to learn more about liens and the kinds of issues that cause the court to consider a lien to be frivolous see Williams, et. al. v. Athletic Field, Inc., 142 Wn. App 752 (2006).