Mechanic lien laws are highly technical, and they frequently change in unpredictable ways (see recent controversial example from Washington). We’ve expressed the sentiment a hundred times on this mechanics lien blog – it’s very easy to make a common lien mistake.
Unfortunately for JE Dunn Construction Co., it seems someone may have really dropped the ball filing its $12.4 Million mechanics lien. The developer of a stalled West Edge project in Kansas City now claims the construction company’s mega-lien has a mistake that invalidates it.
When it comes to filing a mechanics lien, sometimes you only get one chance to get it right. Depending on the merit of the developer’s claim, JE Dunn Construction Co. may have gotten a very frustrating and expensive lesson about the technical nature of mechanics liens.
From the press, it looks like the lien would have converted the debt from an unsecured claim into a secured claim in the bankruptcy proceedings pending on the West Edge project. Without the lien, the claim falls to an unsecured one, making collection a lot less likely. That makes this lien mistake one of the country’s most expensive.
What Could Have Gone Wrong?
What could have went wrong with the mechanics lien, you ask? What kind of mistake could invalidate such a big claim?
Funny enough, the biggest claims in the world can be invalidated by just the simplest and most technical oversight. Here are examples of common filing errors that could have cost JE Dunn Construction Co. its secured claim:
- Poorly Identifying the Property: Most states require the use of a legal property description, and others require specific descriptions of the property. In every state, the requirement is technical, and a lien can be invalidated because of an inadequate description. (See article about describing properties on mechanic liens).
- Signing Mistakes: Mechanic liens must be signed in a particular way. Some states require they be notarized, some states require a verification with specific and statutory language. The smallest waiver from these requirements can result in the mechanics lien being invalidated. (See article on Washington lien invalidated because of verification error)
- Not Sending Notice: Some states require notice when you begin work. Some states require notice immediately before filing a mechanics lien. Some states require notice immediately after filing a lien. Failing to deliver this notice, can forfeit your mechanic lien rights. (See blog posts about preliminary and other notices)
Who is Filing Your Mechanics Lien?
Let us be the first to tell you that if you are about to file a $12.4 Million mechanics lien, you have no business filing it without the counsel of a qualified and experienced construction attorney. That is big money, and it’s certainly worth spending a few thousand dollars on counseling.
However, there are occasions when it doesn’t make financial or practical sense to hire an attorney to file a mechanic’s lien. That’s when we really shine. And some law firms - like this one in Georgia – have even recommended using a lien service to file a construction lien in the right circumstances.
For this, check out zlien, a lien filing service that was founded by Scott Wolfe Jr., principal attorney for Wolfe Law Group.