Every state has their own deadline by which contractors or suppliers must file a mechanics lien in order for it to be valid.
Montana is interesting in that there are two potential time periods in which a mechanics lien must be filed, as set forth by statute. According to Montana Code, you have 90 days to file a mechanics lien after:
- Your date of last furnishing of labor or materials to the project, or
- The property owner files a Notice of Completion.
The fact that there are two possible lien periods can be confusing and frustrating. Especially since the failure to file the lien on time will result in the lien being invalid.
Whenever there are two conflicting deadlines, the best practice is to file within the shorter of these periods. Always err on the side of caution.
However, what happens if the lien claimant misses the 90 day “last furnishing” deadline due to some oversight? Does the owner’s subsequent Notice of Completion extend the lien filing period?
The wording of Montana Code Section 71-3-535(1) appears that it might. Note that the lien must be filed 90 days after last furnishing, OR 90 days from the Notice of Completion. Since there is nothing in the statute that describes with any particularity when either of those periods applies, it could be argued that either time period applies to all claims/claimants. This would mean that the filing of a Notice of Completion would, in effect, revive a lien claim that expired 90 days after the potential lien claimant last furnished labor or materials.
While this is potentially a benefit to the lien claimant it should be noted that it would always be better to err on the side of caution, as stated earlier, and to make sure lien claims are filed within the earlier time period.
Another interesting question: How does this two-pronged time period have a chilling effect on the property owner as regards filing a Notice of Completion. Does it have a chilling effect on the owner’s eagerness to file an NOC? There are, at the very least, competing issues that may pull the property owner in one direction or another. If the filing of the Notice of Completion opens the door for mechanics liens on the property that may have previously expired (or extends the time in which they may be filed) the owner may be less likely to file the Notice of Completion, when they otherwise would.