Lien Law

Triad Law Group provides the following lien legal services:

Lien law for general contractors and sub-contractors

Common Lien Law Missteps:
  • Waiting too long to record the lien;
  • Failing to accurately describe the nature of the work performed;
  • Failing to sign and have the lien acknowledged;
  • Waiting too long to perfect the lien by timely filing the lawsuit;
  • Not adequately identifying the owner of the subject property;
  • Not correctly identifying the legal address of the burdened property;
  • As a contractor, you will want to serve a copy of the lien on the property owner so as to preserve your rights to ask the court for attorney’s fees and costs.

These are all issues which can cause the lien to be invalid. (Recall the adage: “liens are in derogation of common law and must therefore be strictly construed.”)

Therefore, if you are a contractor and you believe that you were shorted – take time to prepare the lien correctly or have it prepared by a professional.

What is a lien?

A lien is a publicly recorded statement indicating that you (the contractor or supplier) performed labor or furnished materials and/or equipment and you remain unpaid. If contractors or other parties are not paid for having provided services and/or materials, liens can be recorded and enforced against the property that was improved. Depending on the property owner’s circumstances, liens may be a serious issue for the affected owner – preventing transactions from taking place and encumbering the property – until issues are resolved and lien is properly released.

Given the circumstances, liens-even though they are comprised of just a single piece of paper (or two) are powerful instruments. They can be very helpful to contractors and potentially disastrous to homeowners.

Mechanic’s and materialmen’s liens recorded in Washington State are covered under RCW 60.04.

Said differently, liens are creatures of statute. To have the “force of law” the lien must be prepared and recorded with the county recorder’s office correctly. The following excerpt is often referred to in construction lien disputes: “liens are in derogation of common law and therefore are to be strictly construed.”

This means that if you are an unpaid contractor, subcontractor, and supplier-you may need a lien to force payment by other parties. It is CRITICAL however, that the process-from start to finish-be completed 100% correctly.

  • Preparing lien documents and other  filings;
  • Filing notices;
  • Handles Lien enforcement;
  • Litigation, court representation (where appropriate);
  • Recording liens with county recorder’s office;
  • Removing frivolous liens (where appropriate);
  • Executing lien releases;

Lien Law for Homeowners

If you are the homeowner, the tables are turned. You will want to very closely examine the lien of any contractors that has been recorded against your property and look for defects. Whenever you pay the contractor that recorded the lien, make sure to get lien releases or be prepared to pay twice.

Example: we recently had a situation where our client homeowner received a lien, but the lien was not properly notarized.

This lien was held to be of no value because of this procedural mistake. In this case, the Contractor (actually surveyor) is removing his lien.

If you are a contractor and you file a lien, you are encumbering the owner’s property. If you file a frivolous lien, your lien may be stricken and you may have to pay the other side’s fees under RCW 60.04.081.

Under the circumstances, only file a lien where it is appropriate to do so.

Again-liens are in derogation of common law and are strictly construed. This is another way of saying that they must be done correctly. The lien statutes do have a bit of slack built into them.  But it is very important that the lien be prepared correctly!

If you are unsure as to how to ensure that the lien was prepared correctly, or if you are looking for a way to argue that the lien was prepared incorrectly, please feel free to give us a call.

Lien Law Notes:

What is a lien?:

  • Publicly recorded document showing that a contractor/supplier performed labor on or provided materials to benefit  a particular piece of property
  • Contractor goes through a process that culminates with the county sheriff selling the “liened” piece of property so that a contractor gets paid
  • Lien is publically recorded piece of property – contractor is in a strong position

Advantages of Filing Liens for Contractors:

  • Prevailing claimant gets attorney’s fees + costs
  • Property cannot be sold without posting bond
  • Additional source of recovery for sub-contractor

Property Owner Perspective:

  • Encumbrance on your property
  • Always want to get it released if possible
  • Liens are derogation of common law – and are strictly construed (this means they must be done correctly or you can ask the court to strike

Example: if lien is recorded more than 90 days after work is completed if lien is not acknowledged then lien should be released.

Warning: Lien must be executed 100% correctly or may be released.