Note: This article was originally published in May, 2012, and was updated in April, 2017

In reading the Wall Street Journal on a business trip, I came across an article about a recent increase in playground installations within shopping malls across America:  If Kids Can Play, Will Mom Shop? The article is timely, as I’ve certainly noticed an increase in shopping mall playgrounds over the past few years. The WEA Southcenter shopping mall near Seattle, for example, has a pretty nice installation, strategically surrounded by maternity and children stores.

Whenever I read anything about construction or fixture installations, I think to myself: Can a mechanics lien be filed for that?

There is a running “Scenarios” series of blog posts where we review certain industries or types of work and analyze whether that work does or does not qualify for a mechanics lien filing. Here, the challenges are very familiar to this discussion:

  • Indoor playgrounds, depending on the sophistication of the installation, may be very simple to remove from the facility, and therefore, it must be asked whether the installation becomes a component part of the structure and subject to mechanic lien filings?;
  • Is an indoor playground installation an “improvement” or “construction project?”
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If It Isn’t REALLY Attached To The Structure, Mechanic Lien Rights Are Iffy

Here is a good rule of thumb: If removing the installation causes damage or leaves some sort of damage behind, the installation is likely “attached” such that you can file a mechanics lien.

Think about the difference between installing (and uninstalling) a refrigerator versus doing the same for kitchen cabinets. The fridge usually slides in or out without much fanfare, but cabinets, they are going to leave quite a bit of markings behind in the way of removed paint, screw or nail holes, and possibly even missing tiles or carpet in the floor.

In most states, you’ll be able to file a mechanics lien for installing kitchen cabinets, but not for installation a refrigerator.

So, how does this have anything to do with playground installations? Because without knowing much about your specific playground installation, I’m unable to indicate whether there is or is not mechanics lien rights.  Some playgrounds come in pieces and get placed on the floor, can be slid around, and can be easily packed up and removed. Other playgrounds, on the other hand, may be bolted tightly to the ground, or have other indications of attachment.

By understanding the difference between “attached” fixtures and “unattached” fixtures, you will be able to make a rudimentary guess at whether there are mechanics lien rights.

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