Timing is critical when dealing with construction liens because a notice of claim of lien must be filed within 90 days after the “person has ceased to furnish labor.” Correctly identifying that last day of work is critical. In the recent case of Brashear Electric, Inc. v. Norcal Properties, LLC , the Washington Court of Appeals provided an important clarification that warranty work will not extend the 90 day deadline because warranty work is not subject to the lien statute in the first place.
Brashear Electric, Inc. was hired as an electrical subcontractor on two building projects. Several months after it completed its work, Brashear was summoned back to both projects to correct work under its warranty. Brashear completed the warranty work in one day.
Having not been fully paid for both projects, Brashear recorded a claim of lien on both. The claim of lien was filed within 90 days of doing the warranty work but not within 90 days of when the work was first completed. Brashear argued that under the plain language of the statute, labor included “repairing” so its lien was timely when measured from the date the warranty work was performed. The appeals court disagreed.
The Court Says Correcting What Was Wrong Is Not Lienable
The appeals court stated that “repairing” means to restore something that is broken. The court observed this strongly suggests “the broken thing once worked properly.” In contrast, the court found that correcting one’s own nonconforming work under a warranty suggests the opposite. The court further reasoned, “A lien is intended to secure payment for money owed. A contractor is not paid to correct its own nonconforming work. Warranty work, therefore, is not lienable. It is unlikely that the legislature intended for non-lienable warranty work to extend the time to record a claim of lien.” Brashear’s lien claim was dismissed as untimely.
If you are a contractor who has not been paid for your work, the lien process is an important collection tool. Successful lien collection depends on complying with the requirements of the lien statute. If you have questions regarding a lien claim, please feel free to contact Joseph Hamell (206) 695-1159 or another attorney in the Construction Law Group at Montgomery Purdue.