Are you planning a home remodel or any other work that may involve a contractor? If so, then it is a necessity that you are aware of the mechanic’s lien. The mechanic’s lien is a remedy available to contractors to collect on unpaid amounts. Essentially, the lien claimant is making a claim against the subject property. So long as it remains, the lien is considered to be an encumbrance on the title of the property. It will significantly affect, if not prohibit, any subsequent sale or refinance.

Importantly, the statute is designed so that anyone can file a claim of lien. This includes the individual/entity in a direct contractual relationship with the property owner. It also includes any employees and subcontractors of the contracting entity. Because of the legislatures’ concerns for protecting contractors, it is very easy to file a lien. Accordingly, the system is ripe for abuse.

Enforcing a filed claim of lien, however, is a different story.

In an effort to somewhat offset the liberal filing requirements, the legislature, under RCW § 60.04 et al, has provided for an efficient method to remove a clearly meritless lien. To be released a lien must have “no possibility of succeeding.” In these proceedings, courts are reluctant to get deeply into nuances of the relevant contract and prefer to focus on clearly defined statutory prohibitions. Focusing on the following procedural issues will increase the likelihood that the cloud on your property title is quickly released.

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Contractor Registration

While anyone can file a claim of lien, a contractor without a valid license cannot take the further step of foreclosing on that lien. If foreclosure is not possible, the lien cannot succeed absent voluntary payment from the property owner.

Please note that there is a long list of exceptions to this rule, including from employees of contractors and owners working on their own property.

Filing Time Limit

In order to be valid, a lien must be filed within 90-days of the last date work was performed. The filer cannot attempt to artificially extend this date by providing unrequested or negligible work.

Required Documents

To collect on a claim of lien, contractors must provide notice to property owners informing them of the potential to file a lien. These documents include (1) Contractor Disclosure Statement; (2) Notice of Lien; (3) the Claim of Lien itself after it has been filed.

Collection Time Limit

Unless a lien claimant initiates an action to collect on the lien within eight months of filing, the lien no longer binds the subject property.
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The lien and contractor statutes contain many exceptions and internal references. It is important to retain competent legal counsel to assist you in navigating these laws.

MDK Law has been assisting clients remove liens from their properties for over three decades. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Dennis Kasimov and Mark Kimball. Dennis joined MDK Law in 2016 and provides counsel on Business Dispute and Litigation matters. Mark Kimball has over 30 years experience with providing expert legal representation to a variety of clients in the Puget Sound area.

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