Complexity of Mechanic’s Lien

11/10/2010

Weren’t mechanic’s liens supposed to be a simple, certain way for contractors or supplier to get paid for the work or materials they provided or furnished for a construction project? Yes, but for over a century the Virginia Supreme Court has not seen it that way, nor has the Virginia General Assembly taken opportunity to do so legislatively. Instead, mechanic’s liens have become technical traps for the unwary who don’t exactly follow the code provisions or case law.

Common filing errors include: misnaming the owner (it’s not always the contracting party or the name they go by); not properly describing the property (it’s not always the address you think, if there even is an address) or not segregating / assigning your work or materials to specific legal parcels (generally only to be found by a title search); and including amounts beyond the statutory prerequisites (both from the last date work and preceding it – the latter being Virginia’s “look back” rule).

It should be simple and court’s should be able to correct non-intentional errors without voiding a lien entirely, but they are not simple and court’s typically cannot correct even non-intentional errors; at least not as the law currently stands. But generally, other than for a bonded project, mechanic’s liens are still one of the best means of trying to secure payment for a commercial project.

Lesson learned: look into filing a lien early and make sure you follow all necessary filing requirements and constricts.

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