Without having to do anything, a mechanic’s lien expires in Washington state 8 months after you’ve claimed it — but we wouldn’t recommend waiting that long. To avoid future lawsuits and move forward with a clean slate, the Northwest Lien team recommends you file a lien release rather than allow the lien to expire.
Important note before you keep reading: only release a lien if you have been paid, money in hand. Releasing a lien that hasn’t been satisfied yet forfeits your right to collect payment out of escrow if the property goes up for sale, which often happens after the lien has expired. In most cases, we recommend signing a conditional lien release as it ensures you only waive your right to lien once you’ve been paid; learn more about the difference between conditional lien releases vs. unconditional lien releases.
A mechanic’s lien release is an official document stating that rightful payment was claimed, the original lien claimant is satisfied, and the mechanic’s lien is released from the property record. In Washington, the state legislature refers to it as a “Release of Lien Rights,” and lien claimants can release said lien rights before or after payment is due. (It’s technically called “waiving” lien rights if it’s before payment is due, but that’s beside the point.)
For reference, here’s the Release of Lien Rights section, Revised Code of Washington 60.04.071:
“Upon payment and acceptance of the amount due to the lien claimant and upon demand of the owner or the person making payment, the lien claimant shall immediately prepare and execute a release of all lien rights for which payment has been made, and deliver the release to the person making payment. In any suit to compel deliverance of the release thereafter in which the court determines the delay was unjustified, the court shall, in addition to ordering the deliverance of the release, award the costs of the action including reasonable attorneys’ fees and any damages.”
To clarify, a lien release is not required in Washington state; like we mentioned before, a Washington mechanic’s lien expires after 8 months all on its own. That said, there are several reasons why lien experts and construction law attorneys alike recommend making lien releases a part of your typical lien filing process.
Here are the reasons we recommend releasing a mechanic’s lien, even if it’s not required in Washington state:
Liens, expired or not, can be damaging to a property’s value, so property owners will want the lien released once it’s been paid. Under RCW 60.04.181, the property owner has the right to take the case to court to “compel deliverance” of the lien release, i.e., demand that the satisfied lien be released and wiped off the record. Lawsuits can be expensive and stressful, so it’s best practice to avoid court appearances altogether if you can.
If the lien is claimed with reasonable cause, the property owner is typically liable to pay all “costs of the action,” including the lien recording costs, costs of title report, bond costs, and the attorney’s fees in all courts. If a lien is not released and the lien dispute is taken to court, however, the court determines who will be responsible for covering these costs — meaning, the lien claimant could end up covering all associated costs if the court deems the claimant’s reason for delaying the lien release “unjustified.”
Like with most legal matters, nasty lien disputes can cause animosity between the involved parties. Making sure you release the lien in a timely manner, however, ensures you and the property owner both move forward once the lien claim has been paid — with clean books and without any hard feelings.
The first point alone should be enough reason to convince you that filing a mechanic’s lien release can be just as important as filing the lien itself. Know your Washington lien deadlines, and work to make releases part of your lien routine!
Washington mechanic’s liens should be released as soon as payment is received, but not a minute before. As you’ll recall from the Code of Washington passage above, “the lien claimant shall immediately prepare and execute a release of all lien rights for which payment has been made, and deliver the release to the person making payment.”
It’s not uncommon for lienholders to be paid out of escrow after the lien has expired. Releasing a lien means you’re forfeiting all rights to lien — meaning, if you release a lien before you get paid, you are ineligible to collect any future payments on that property.
Filing a mechanic’s lien release form in Washington state is easy if you file your lien with Northwest Lien. Just let us know when the lien claim has been paid, and we’ll take care of the entire lien release filing, recording, and sending process for you — and we’ll do so electronically, so you don’t even need to worry about banks or recording offices being closed. Keep in mind there is an additional Lien Release Fee, ranging from $285 to $485 depending on the worth of your claim.
For reference, you can also find the Washington Waiver of Lien form provided by the Department of Labor & Industries here. This form does not request all of the information we’d recommend including on a lien release form (like the recorded lien’s identifying information, for example).
Washington is one of 38 states that does not have statutory release and waiver forms, which means the state legislature doesn’t specify which information needs to be on lien release or waiver forms. This leaves a lot up for interpretation, so it’s important to have someone on your side who understands the nuances of state lien laws and requirements.
This blog post should not be taken as legal advice. Each situation is unique, and it’s impossible to evaluate a legal situation without a full consultation. If you’re looking for more information specific to your situation, however, contact Northwest Lien by calling or submitting the form below. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!