PRIVATE MECHANIC’S LIEN BASICS

Be aware that the RIGHT to file a mechanic’s lien must be secured, in some cases, BEFORE you begin the work.

The law of mechanic’s liens is different in every state. DO NOT rely on forms, advice, or internet posts relating to mechanic’s liens that are not specific to the state in which you performed the project.

Residential projects for four (4) or fewer homes / units, require a “Notice to Owner” – RCW 18.27, and at http://www.lni.wa.gov.

Commercial projects for less than $50,000, may also require pre-lien notices.

This is a SEPARATE requirement from the mechanic’s lien statutory notice requirements found at RCW 60.04.

Be safe. Send out both the RCW 60.04 and the RCW 18.27 pre-lien notices on every project. It is good business, not a comment on your customers’ integrity. Arguing about whether notice was required in court and through attorneys is expensive.

IF YOU WISH TO FILE YOUR OWN LIENS, AND YOU HAVE SENT ANY REQUIRED NOTICES:

1. Review RCW 60.04 at http://www.leg.wa.gov. Then find the lien form on http://www.lni.wa.gov

2. Sign and date the claim under penalty of perjury before a notary.

3. Lien only for work that is a permanent improvement to the property — not cleaning, mowing, advertising, etc. Separate property parcels require separate liens.

4. File the lien(s) within 90 days of your last work ON EACH SITE (removing the job trailer or tools doesn’t count).

5. Send the lien by CERTIFIED MAIL to the property owner, general contractor (if that isn’t you), and any financing bank for the construction project of which you are aware. You must do this within 14 days of filing your claim, or you lose the right to claim attorney fees.

6. Public works projects have a different form and different requirements. You must file your lien on the retainage and/or payment bond claim within 30 / 45 days after the project is closed and accepted. Contact the owner to find out if the project has closed. Look on the L&I website (URL above) under “prevailing wage” to see if any affidavits have been filed. If it closed more than 30 days ago, you are left with only a private lawsuit against the party with whom you contracted –an entity that may or may not be solvent.

7. On private work, you must file suit within 8 months of filing your lien. On public work, you must file suit within 4 months of filing your lien claim / bond claim.

*Mechanic’s liens can be tricky, and the above basics are exactly that — very basic. But many contractors routinely file their own mechanic’s liens.

You may want to have an attorney walk through the first one with you, then update your notices and forms on your own computer, and take it from there.

Lien and bond claims are the best protection for contractors performing work in a complicated financial construction industry. When you do the work, you deserve to be paid. Protect your rights!