Wondering when to file a lien in Washington for it to be considered valid? Well, you’re not alone! Knowing exactly when to file a mechanic’s lien is one of the most challenging aspects of lien law, especially if your company operates in multiple states. Luckily, Northwest Lien is more than familiar with Washington lien deadlines, and our local team of experts is prepared to help you file quickly and effectively.
To sum up, you must file a Washington mechanic’s lien within 90 days from the date you last delivered labor or materials. There are different Notice of Intent deadlines in Washington, however, depending on the nature of work you did on the project. If you did not contract directly with the owner, you are required to provide the owner with a Notice of Intent within 60 days of first furnishing before you are eligible to file for a lien.
If the work you did was not under contract with the owner, you must provide the owner notice of your right to lien before filing the lien itself. In Washington, this notice is most commonly known as a Notice of Intent document, but it’s also sometimes called a preliminary notice or a Notice of Right to Claim Lien. Confusing, we know.
Washington has different Notice of Intent requirements depending on the role you played in the work. There are three different roles: prime contractors, subcontractors/laborers, or suppliers. Check out the definitions below, as outlined in Chapter 60.04 RCW of Washington State Law, to determine which role applies to you.
To be considered a “prime contractor,” you need to check these boxes:
1. You’re a general contractor or a specialty contractor.
2. You’re registered with the State of Washington, i.e., licensed by law to be providing general or specialty contractor work.
3. You contracted directly with the property owner (or their lawyer) to provide an “improvement” (construction, landscaping, and anything in between) upon a “real property” (land, buildings, fixtures, and all of this other stuff).
We’re not lawyers, though, so here’s the long version, for reference: “’prime contractor’ includes all contractors, general contractors, and specialty contractors, as defined by chapter 18.27 or 19.28 RCW, or who are otherwise required to be registered or licensed by law, who contract directly with a property owner or their common law agent to assume primary responsibility for the creation of an improvement to real property, and includes property owners or their common law agents who are contractors, general contractors, or specialty contractors as defined in chapter 18.27 or 19.28 RCW, or who are otherwise required to be registered or licensed by law, who offer to sell their property without occupying or using the structures, projects, developments, or improvements for more than one year.”
Phew. Talk about a run-on sentence.
If all of the above applies to you, you shouldn’t need to send a Notice of Intent to maintain the right to lien. You do, however, need to provide the owner with a “Model Disclosure Statement” before work begins on all residential projects and commercial projects under $60,000. Learn more in our Washington construction law payment resources.
The State of Washington says, “a general contractor or specialty contractor as defined by chapter 18.27 or 19.28 RCW, or who is otherwise required to be registered or licensed by law, who contracts for the improvement of real property with someone other than the owner of the property or their common law agent.”
Basically, you’re a registered contractor who contracted with someone other than the property owner or their lawyer to improve a property. If you fall into this bucket, you must provide a Notice of Intent document within 60 days from first delivering labor or materials.
The “Suppliers” bucket is for those of you who are not contractors, but have still provided physical materials and goods used to improve a property, as contracted by someone other than the property owner. This means supplying anything from doors to countertops to the concrete on the ground.
Same rules apply here as they did for subcontractors: suppliers must give notice within 60 days from first delivering materials.
Keep in mind that supplier-to-supplier transactions are not covering under Washington lien law.
Time is of the essence, so we’ll reiterate for clarity: no matter what role you played in the process, you must file a Washington mechanic’s lien within 90 days from the date you last delivered labor or materials.
The difference in deadlines in Washington have to do with when and if you must provide a Notice of Intent before filing for a lien. General contractors who contract directly with the property owner don’t have to give notice to maintain their right to lien, but you should look into Model Disclosure Statements. For anyone who provided improvements to a property via a contract with someone other than the property owner (or no contract at all), you must give notice of intent to lien within 60 days from first delivering labor or materials.
If you’re still unsure if you were supposed to file your Washington preliminary notice, give Northwest Lien a call or submit the contact form below — we’re happy to help!