Mechanics liens have been known to pop up all over the place. Be it a celebrity mansion, a bridge, or a museum, no (private) property is safe from liens when an owner fails to pay the laborers on a project. After all, liens are construction’s most important remedy. This remedy was recently utilized on a restaurant serving as a staple for college students everywhere: Panda Express. This Blacksburg location faces several mechanics liens in Virginia after it failed to pay its subcontractors. Considering the state was home to the father of the modern mechanics lien, Thomas Jefferson, this construction remedy is no stranger to Virginia courts.
Much like the chicken served at Panda Express, mechanics liens can be both sweet and sour. On one hand, the imposition of a lien provides the ultimate security for a contractor, sub, or supplier seeking payment. On the other, property owners facing liens experience no shortage of headaches when dealing with the charge on their property. When a general contractor has been paid but has stiffed the subcontractors and suppliers, these headaches can multiply, as a property owner may be required to pay for the same work twice.
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In this case, however, the reasons for nonpayment are not yet clear. The developer, CFT NV Developments of California, and the prime contractor, CCI Builders and Developers, were both listed on the filings. Altogether, the restaurant faces 7 Virginia mechanics liens totaling over $215K. According to The Roanoke Times, this includes $9,366 claimed for roof work and $29,903 for plumbing.
Rules for Mechanics Liens in Virginia
Here’s a quick overview of Virginia’s lien law which these claims will have to abide by:
- In Virginia, any party furnishing labor for the construction, removal repair, or improvement of a building or permanent structure is entitled to mechanics lien protection so long as the value provided exceeds $50. This includes design professionals.
- Where licensing is required, only those contractors and subs who have the necessary licenses are entitled to lien rights.
- Subcontractors and suppliers who provide labor and/or materials to a project subject to a contract with an unlicensed contractor or sub (where licensing is required) do not have lien rights in Virginia.
- A potential lien claimant must file the lien within 90 days from the last day of the last month in which he furnished labor and/or materials to the project. The lien must also be filed within 90 days from the completion or termination of the project.
- Notice that the lien was recorded must be sent when attempting to make the owner and/or general contractor personally liable.
- A Virginia mechanics lien must be initiated before the later of 6 months from filing the lien, or 60 days from the completion or termination of the project.
- Mechanics liens in Virginia do not require a legal property description.
- Virginia does not have statutory lien waiver rules.
Even an American treasure such as Panda Express is not safe from the reach of mechanics liens. By using this tool, contractors, subs, and suppliers can help level the playing field when dealing with powerful developers and prime contractors. However, considering filing a fraudulent lien can result in criminal charges in Virginia, the subs who filed liens had better be sure they have valid claims.