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In the broadest sense, a lien is a legal right or interest that a creditor has in another’s property.  Usually, creditors use liens to secure payment of debts.  There are many different types of liens.  For example, there are judgment liens, construction liens, crop liens, and various labor liens.  There are also various regulations that describe how these liens attach to property and how liens can be enforced.


Mechanic’s and materialman’s liens arise in the construction context.  These liens have existed for a very long time in Washington and are regulated by RCW 60.04.  They attach to the real property where construction projects are located, and are intended to secure payment for laborers, subcontractors, contractors, suppliers, and others whose work or materials get incorporated into those projects.  The basic idea is that, in exchange for contributing work or materials to the project, a claimant’s right to payment gets secured by the property where the project is located in the form of a lien.  A claimant can then enforce these liens to recover payment, even if the party who hired the claimant is unable to pay.


To secure these liens, lien claimants must follow specific notice, recording, and foreclosure procedures set out in RCW 60.04.  These procedures can vary depending on who is claiming a lien and the type of project on which the lien is being claimed.  Failing to follow these procedures closely can render a lien invalid.  Once its lien is secured, a claimant can enforce that lien by filing a lien foreclosure lawsuit.  A lien foreclosure is essentially a method of getting a court order to sell the property so that the property can be sold to pay off the lien and other potential secured interests.  Liens and their accompanying foreclosure rights are powerful tools that contractors, suppliers, and others have to secure payment on construction projects.   With very few exceptions, it is good advice for those working on or supplying materials to construction projects to secure and protect their lien rights.


Please contact senior associate Seth Chastain for more information.

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