Posts Tagged ‘Common Mistakes’

Filing Mistake Invalidates $12.4 Million Mechanics Lien

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.

This article was originally posted on zliens topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Posted in:     Dispute A Lien, Filing Requirements  /  Tags: , , , ,   /   Leave a comment

What Costs / Labor To Include In Your Lien?

It’s been an interesting week on the web as it relates to mechanic’s liens, as I’ve run across a number of web posts about the types of services that can be included in a lien.

Let’s look at the matter theoretically.   Construction lien laws are normally drafted to protect contractors, who invest labor and expense into the improvement of a property.  However, since the laws also balance the property rights of persons or organizations, each state certainly does something to qualify what types of labor and expense can be represented in a lien, and which cannot.

The question here, therefore, is quite simple:   have you performed work or provided materials that can be the subject of a lien?

It’s one of the most important questions a contractor or supplier can ask when determining how to best collect on a non-paying account or project.   If you work does not qualify for a lien, for example, there is no need to even consider if notice is required and other lien filing requirements.

It’s important to consult the laws or your particular state to determine what type of materials and labor can be the subject of a lien, and which cannot.  However, two recently decided cases in Virginia and Kentucky are revealing of some general principals that are followed by most states.  The principal is essentially this:  you can only lien for labor and materials that actually go into improving the property.

What does this exclude?

In Virginia, Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports that a Hanover County Circuit Court invalidated a mechanic’s lien filed by a contractor that incurred costs in anticipation of construction of a steel building, but did not provide labor or materials actually employed in construction of the building.

The case is captioned Dallan Construction Co. v. Super Structures General Contractors, Inc, and can be downloaded here.

Similarly, in Kentucky, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that “mowing, trimming, edging and street cleaning” did not “permanently improve the property,” and therefore, a mechanics lien was not allowed to be filed for the services provided.  That case is discussed at the South Carolina Community Association Law Blog, and is captioned Steeplechase Subdivision Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Thomas, Ky. Ct. App. 2008.

Posted in:     Filing Requirements, Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   /   2 Comments

Caution: Lien Laws in are Hyper-Technical

In most states, the liens laws are hyper-technical.   This means that the laws have many requirements, and that courts strictly construe the rules against the party filing construction liens.

This is true for nearly every state.

While laws across the nation provide lien rights to those in the construction industry, because of the power of these instruments most states require that the liens be filed in exact accordance with the law to be valid.

This is especially the case with regard to the required contents of a lien.

Each state has different requirements for what must be stated within a mechanic’s lien, and how that information must be stated.

Every state, for example, will require the claimant to identify the property being liened.  In Louisiana, Washington, and Virginia, however, the law requires that the lien use the legal property description and not simply a municipal address.   The proper identification of property can be so important we’ve written an entire blog post about it here.

In Virginia, the laws are even stricter.   Because the Virginia lien law is land record based, the claimant is expected to perform a complete title search to acquire the exact legal owner and legal property description.   A lien that does not lien the exact owner, at the exact property for the exact amount due, can be deemed invalid by courts.

Zlien does this leg work for your company, helping your company properly prepare these important legal forms.   Our professional legal document preparers are familiar with the lien and notice forms in your state, and can help your company Lien Smarter.

Posted in:     Louisiana, Mechanics Lien, Washington  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,   /   1 Comment

Be Careful When Using Free Legal Forms

Gerard Simington with “” published an informative article that warns businesses about using free legal forms found on the internet.

The Internet has placed legal information and legal forms at our fingertips – and its easy to forget sometimes that the law is a very complicated subject, and legal forms are no exception.  While a legal form may seem simple on its face, the blanks can carry significant legal consequences.

It’s always great to hire an attorney to draft legal documents from scratch, or to “tweak” legal forms to fit your particular need.   The costs associated with legal counsel, however, are simply sometimes out of your business’ reach.

Legal Document preparation services like Express Lien are perfect for these situations.  Our staffs of professionals are familiar with the forms that relate to your construction project, and we can help you draft & file your forms properly and avoid costly mistakes.

Posted in:     Construction News  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   /   1 Comment

7 Habits of Contractors Who Lose Money…and How to Break Them

The Construction Commando’s “Contractor’s Secret Weapon” published an article with this title that described seven instances when contractors lose money on a project.  While the article was drafted to an audience of California contractors, the habits apply nationwide.

It will be to any contractors’ benefit to review this article online, access which habits apply to you, and make an effort to avoid the costly mistakes.  Any progress will help increase your bottom line.

The seven habits highlighted are:

1)    The “Gentlemen’s Agreement” – A Handshake and Your Word.   Bottom line:  Get it in writing.
2)    Using Contracts that Fall Short of the Legal Requirements.
3)    Not Getting Every Change Order in Writing.
4)    Failing to invoice immediately.
5)    Failing to serve a preliminary 20-day notice (pre-lien construction notices)
6)    Don’t Worry – They Will “Take Care of You” on the Next Job
7)    It isn’t good “customer service” to record a Mechanic’s Lien

Posted in:     Change Orders, Construction Contracts, Construction News, Mechanics Lien  /  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   /   Leave a comment