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How can a subcontractor file a lien on a project or protect from non pymt fr the General? Is their a time limit?

Seattle, WA |

The job is still in process but the subcontractor is finished and has applications for payment out 90 day or less. The General contractor is not responding to any communications efforts.
If there is a filing time limit, what is the first day.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Your question lacks sufficient information to give you an answer. Is this a residential project, commercial project or public project. The rules are different for each. If you provided more than labor, you may have been required to provide a prelien notice, which could be within 10 or 60 days depending upon what kind of project it is. These are procedures that should be in place in your business and should have been discussed with a lawyer in advance so that you can properly protect your work. Trying to put this together well into a project is a recipe for disaster. You should contact a local construction attorney and spend the time and money to sit down and have that person review your contract and any subcontracts you sign, discuss lien procedures and work with you to develop the forms and teach you what steps you have to go through to file a prelien, notice of lien or notice of claim and the foreclosure requirements. Good luck.

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  2. The following should not be taken as legal advice, but simply as information based on general principles of law which is intended to educate. If you need legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.

    A subcontractor can file a lien on a project if they are not paid by the general contractor. There is a very specific set of steps that must be followed, you should consult an attorney if you need more on that. There are a number of time limits related to liens, as to the ones in your question: Washington state law requires that a notice of lien claim be filed not later than ninety days after the person has ceased to furnish labor, professional services, materials, or equipment or the last date on which employee benefit contributions were due. The person claiming the lien has 8 months to bring a lawsuit to enforce the lien claim. The law states: “No lien created by this chapter binds the property subject to the lien for a longer period than eight calendar months after the claim of lien has been recorded unless an action is filed by the lien claimant within that time in the superior court ...”

    Information given is general for information purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with an attorney of your choice to fully advise you about your legal rights and obligations. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.


  3. Both David and Bill are correct. Bill practices in your neck of the woods, by the way...so if you need to file a lien and haven't done this before, I suggest you hire an attorney the first time. The forms are available on the L&I website, but you need guidance on how to fill them out. [Example: who is the grantor? Who is the grantee? Do you include pre-site activity in your "first day" on the project? Does removing your job trailer count for last day on site???] Those nagging little issues have been developed over the last 100 years or so, and Bill (or any other construction attorney) can help you wade through it. After that, you can do them on your own. I also never counsel clients to actually wait to file. 90 days actually means 90 days...NOT 3 months (they aren't the same!). Missing that deadline is a huge failure to protect your own interests. ALSO, there are two separate lien notices you may need to comply with. One is under RCW 60.04, the other is under RCW 18.27. The first is governed by where you fall in the food chain (material suppliers always have to provide them; subcontractors often do not). RCW 18.27, however, depends upon the dollar size of the project and whether it is for residential construction, or commercial / industrial. So, there is a lot to be aware of and for your first time out, it helps to have guidance. Your attorney fees are recoverable if you win. Most construction attorneys won't let you file a "frivolous" or -- and this is different -- an invalid lien. So, you won't pay too much just to have somebody help you make that determination. Also, don't forget that you may have rights against the general contractor's bond, but only if you file your suit within one year of your work. As the bond is limited to $12,000 and is depleted with each claim, you seldom want to put all of your hopes into that basket! Good luck to you. I hope you are paid promptly, whatever you choose to do.

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