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Mechanics Liens FAQs

Mechanics Liens FAQs


What is a Washington mechanics lien claim?

Mechanics liens page

A mechanics lien is similar to a mortgage. Unlike a mortgage, which is a legal interest voluntarily given in real property to secure an obligation, a mechanics lien is an interest that is obtained in real property without the owner's consent to secure the payment of your unpaid subcontract balance.

Just like a mortgage, a mechanics lien can be used to foreclose on real property. If done properly, the net sale proceeds resulting from the foreclosure can be used to satisfy the unpaid subcontract balance, attorney fees, and costs of foreclosure.

In practice, mechanics liens are rarely foreclosed, but are an effective tool to encourage prompt payment of your outstanding subcontract balance.  


What does priority mean?

Priority means that you get paid from the net sale proceeds of the property before any other competing claims on property such as other subcontractors or banks providing construction financing.

In general, the first perfected lien to attach to property has priority over other liens.

For subcontractors, attachment of a perfected mechanics lien is measured from the commencement of labor, professional services, or delivery of the material to the property.  


Who can record a Washington mechanics lien?

Any person providing labor, materials, or equipment to a privately-owned project can record a mechanics lien in Washington.

In addition to other categories of construction, professionals such as suppliers, labors, or design professionals, and subcontractors performing work on privately-owned projects have lien rights.

Even lower tier subcontractors can have lien rights but must provide pre-notices to the owner and prime contractor to be able to enforce their lien rights.

Any person providing only supervisor services, such as project management services, does not have lien rights.


Can I record a Washington mechanics lien on a government owned project?

No. Even if you provided labor, materials, or equipment towards a government owned project, you cannot record a mechanics lien on the project. Instead, you must assert a bond claim or retainage claim to get your money from a public works contractor.


Do I need a written subcontract in order to record a Washington mechanics lien?

No. As long as you furnished labor, material, equipment, or otherwise provided services to the project, you have lien rights even in the absence of a written subcontract.


Are pre-notices for a Washington mechanics lien required to be given by subcontractors?

In most cases, a statutory Notice to Owner form must be provided by the subcontractor.

The purpose of requiring a Notice to Owner is to ensure that the property owner is aware of individuals, other than the general contractor, who have lien rights.

If you are a subcontractor that contracted directly with the general contractor, you do not need to give a Notice to Owner to the general contractor.

However, if you are a second tier or lower subcontractor, you must also provide the general contractor a Notice to Owner of your lien rights.


Are pre-notices for a Washington mechanics lien required to be given by general contractors?

A general contractor hired by the homeowner does not have to provide a Notice to Owner to have lien rights.

However, in residential remodels of homes less than four units, a general contractor must provide a Notice to Customer.

A general contractor must provide a Notice to Customer on small commercial jobs between $1,000 and $60,000.

Failure to provide a required Notice to Customer will prohibit the general contractor from recording a mechanics lien.     


What if I didn't provide a pre-project notice to the owner, can I still get paid?

Yes. The Notice to Owner requirement only applies to lien rights and does affect your right to payment of your subcontract earnings.

Even if your lien rights were not exercised properly, it may be possible for you to secure your right to payment by filing a lawsuit.


What information do I need to include in my Washington mechanics lien?

To be effective, your lien must include your name and contact; the person owing you your subcontract earnings; the name of the project owner; a description of the property; the date work commenced; the date you were off the job; the principal amount claimed; and whether your right to payment has been assigned.

Your mechanics lien must also be signed, notarized, and include a sworn statement that you (or your authorized representative) believe that the notice of claim of lien is true and correct.  


How much money can I claim in my Washington mechanics lien?

There is no set limit to the amount of money you claim in your mechanics lien. However, the stated principal amount of your mechanics lien must not exceed the value of the material supplied, the labor, professional services, or equipment furnished in furtherance of the project.

If your mechanics lien contains an excessive claim, the superior court may order the mechanics lien released or reduced and can assess attorney fees and costs against you for making a frivolous or excessive lien.  

How long do I have to record a Washington mechanics lien?

You must record your mechanics lien within 90 days of being off the job. Punch list work will restart the clock, but warranty work will not.


Where do I record a Washington mechanics lien?

To be effective against the property, the mechanics lien must be recorded with the county in the county where the project is located. The particular office in the county is county specific. In King County, the mechanics lien must be recorded with the King County Auditor.   


How long does my recorded Washington mechanics lien last?

Your mechanics lien is only good for eight (8) months unless you file a lawsuit in the superior court of the county where the project is located to foreclose on the mechanics lien.


How does recording a Washington mechanics lien claim help me get paid?

Just like a mortgage, a mechanics lien can be used to foreclose on real property. If done properly, the net sale proceeds resulting from the foreclosure can be used to satisfy the unpaid subcontract balance, attorney fees, and costs of foreclosure.

In practice, mechanics liens are rarely foreclosed, but are an effective tool to encourage prompt payment of your outstanding subcontract balance. For example, most prime contracts require the prime contractor to keep the property free of liens and may want to avoid increasing their risk to the owner by allowing your lien to hit the property.

Additionally, RCW 60.04.221 permits you to send a notice to any construction financier, and in some circumstances, the financier is required to pull your money back from its construction draws or insist on the posting of the bond to cover your claimed subcontract earnings.          


What if someone “bonds around” my Washington mechanics lien?

If someone, such as the owner, prime contractor, or lender, records a surety bond guaranteeing payment of your claim, then your mechanics lien is released. Y

ou may, however, enforce your claim against the surety bond, provided that you do so within the eight-month window from the recording of your mechanics lien.

You enforce your claim by filing suit against the surety in the superior court of the county where the project is located.


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BAROKAS MARTIN & TOMLINSON

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