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Mechanic’s Lien Washington - Guide & FAQ

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What is a Mechanic’s Lien?

Contractors encounter all sorts of situations when working for various clientele. Perhaps the most stressful and inconvenient circumstance in their line of work is when they are unable to collect payments at the right time or in the right amount. But did you know there’s a legal tool to help prevent these situations? Often called mechanics’ liens, construction liens, or materialmans’ liens, these tools can be a critical aspect of protecting your business.

On this page, Northwest Lien — the top regional lien service — tells all about the mechanic’s lien, why it is important, and how to get a mechanic's lien in Washington state.

What you’ll find on this page

The most commonly asked questions and topics are listed below in the FAQ sections.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, contact us today to talk with our team of experts. We’ve been assisting companies big and small to protect their lien rights and secure outstanding payment for over 20 years — and we’d love to do the same for you.

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Overview

Washington Mechanic’s Lien

Considered a legal tool, a mechanic’s lien is used as security for payment when you work on a person’s property. They may be equal to the value of the labor and/or materials you will use when working. Liens are usually the go-to method for security payments for contractors because they are less expensive and less time-consuming than a lawsuit for breach of contract.

In a lien agreement, the property owner grants the lien and is also referred to as the lienee. The lienor or lien holder, on the other hand, has the benefit of the lien (in this case, the contractor).

You should remember that a lien does not guarantee payment. However, it prevents the owner of the property from not paying the lien or posting a bond.

Use the links in the blue bar below to find more helpful information. 

Washington Deadlines

Know your deadlines! Missed lien deadlines are the most common and costly mistakes companies make when trying to recoup missing payment.

Below, we’ve laid out important dates to be aware of by role and document type.

  • For General Contractors
  • For Subs / Laborers
  • For Suppliers / Others

Notice to Owner Deadlines

BEFORE WORK

Under some circumstances, Notice to Owner is required before commencing work. Model Disclosure Statement due before work begins on all residential projects, and commercial projects under $60,000.

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Mechanic's Lien Deadlines

90 DAYS

Washington mechanics' liens must be filed within 90 days from last delivering labor or materials.

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Preliminary Notice Deadlines

60 DAYS

Preliminary notice, a.k.a. Notice of Intent or Notice of Right to Claim Lien, within 60 days from first delivering labor or materials. Who must receive the notice depends on the role of the party that hired the party giving notice.

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Mechanic's Lien Deadlines

90 DAYS

Washington mechanics' liens must be filed within 90 days from last delivering labor or materials.

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Preliminary Notice Deadlines

60 DAYS

Notice of Right to Claim Lien within 60 days from first delivering labor or materials. Who must receive the notice depends on the role of the party that hired the party giving notice.

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Mechanic's Lien Deadlines

90 DAYS

Washington mechanics' liens must be filed within 90 days from last delivering labor or materials.

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How to File a Mechanic’s Lien in Washington

If you are new to filing a mechanic’s lien in Washington, you may be confused and unsure of what to do. In this section, we briefly cover the process of obtaining a mechanic’s lien. For more detailed information, visit our comprehensive guide below.

FULL GUIDE: HOW TO FILE A MECHANIC’S LIEN IN WASHINGTON


Step 1: Determine if you have the right to file a lien

Filing a lien is not for everyone. As we mentioned before, there are specific people who can file for a lien. You are eligible to file for a lien if you have furnished professional services, labor, materials, or equipment for the purpose of improving real property.

If you are a landscaper who has a client that’s avoiding you because of payments, for example, you are eligible for a lien. Alternatively, if you are a supplier to a supplier, you are not eligible to file a Washington mechanic’s lien.


Step 2: Prepare the lien document

Now that you know whether you are qualified to file a mechanic’s lien or not, it is time to prepare your Claim of Lien document. You must remember that the details are highly critical in preparing the lien document, and any incorrect information will lead to an invalid lien.

Here is the information your mechanics lien form must contain:

  • Claimant’s name, phone number, and address
  • First and last date of furnishing labor and/or materials to the property
  • Hiring party’s name, or the party indebted to the lien claimant
  • Description of the property
  • Name of the owner or reputed owner of the property; if the owner is unknown, you must state so to that effect
  • Lien amount
  • Signature and acknowledgment

If you’d like someone to take care of the filing for you, file a mechanic’s lien with Northwest Lien.


Step 3: File the lien

After filling out the mechanic’s lien form, the next thing to do is file your mechanic’s lien claim. Also known as “recording the lien,” this step is important if you want your lien to be secured.

Where to file?
You must submit your mechanic’s lien file at the county recorder’s office of the county where the property is situated. If, however, the property is located in two counties, then the mechanic’s lien file must be recorded with both counties.

How to file?
There are three ways to record or file a lien. These are the following:

  • In-person. You can deliver your Washington mechanic’s lien yourself. Ultimately this is the easiest way, and you can ensure that the fees will be correct.
  • By mail. You can record your mechanic’s lien form by mail. However, you must verify the fees for the lien as these are often rejected because of incorrect fees.
  • Electronic. When electronically recorded, mechanics’ liens are placed remotely, with the county auditor reviewing them. However, before you can file your mechanic’s file electronically, you would need to create an account with an electronic recording service provider.

Which filing methods are available to you will depend on the county where work took place. For helpful filing information on each county in Washington, download our 2022 Washington State Contractor Cheat Sheet, a free and easily printable resource to use as you’re filing mechanics’ liens.

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WASHINGTON LIEN CHEAT SHEET

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Step 4: Send notice of lien

After filing your lien, the county auditor will record it. Once recorded, you must send notice of lien to the property owner within 14 days of recording. Although your mechanic’s lien will not be invalidated, failure to send a notice will disqualify you from recovering any legal fees incurred when you enforce the lien (which can be costly!).

You can send the Notice of Lien to the property owner in person or by certified or registered mail.


Step 5: Secure payment

A filed lien itself can be amazing leverage against the property owner; no property owner wants a lien placed on their property. Neither owners nor prime contractors like dealing with lien claims, so they may start to talk about payment once they receive a notice of the lien.

If, however, a mechanic’s lien did not push the owner to pay, you can send a Notice of Intent to Foreclose to help you. This document notifies the owner or contractor that you are willing to take them to court due to their nonpayment. Here are more steps you can take to enforce your filed mechanic’s lien in Washington, as suggested by one of our partner attorneys.


Step 6: Release the lien

Once you are able to collect the payment, we recommend you release or cancel the lien claim. You can release the lien by filing a lien release form, which must be in recordable format. You must also identify all your previously filed mechanics liens on the property as well as state a request for the release of the lien.

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WASHINGTON LIEN RELEASE FORM 

Washington Mechanic’s Lien FAQs

General Lien FAQs

Preliminary Notice FAQs

Claim on Bond FAQs

DOWNLOAD OUR WASHINGTON LIEN CHEAT SHEET

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You can feel confident trusting us to provide the most effective tools in the industry aimed at collecting your hard-earned money.

Because Northwest Lien is based right here in the Great Northwest and only serves local clients, we are the foremost experts in Washington and Oregon lien laws.

Moreover, we are a service-based company. You will never hear any computer voice prompts or have calls and emails go unanswered. Our team is available Mon-Fri 8am-5pm to answer all questions and offer expert advice given your unique situation. Our website makes it easy to research, sign up and order documents you need to help collect payment. We also keep you informed throughout the process with notifications as your documents make their way to being recorded with the appropriate county. We’re with you every step of the way.