Just a week or two ago, I published a “Scenario” post, analyzing whether a lien can be filed by cleaning services or someone doing cleaning work on a construction project: Scenario: Can You File A Mechanics Lien For Cleaning Services.
Coincidentally, the Utah Court of Appeals published a bit about this topic at the exact time we were talking about it here. And insofar as Utah is concerned, the answer to the question is no, cleaning services (of any type) doesn’t qualify you for a lien.
Kudos to Olsen, Skoubye & Nielson’s news page for publishing about this case last week, in a cleverly titled post: In Order To Lien You Have To Do More Than Clean. The case is All Clean, Inc. dba The Flood Co. v. Timberline Properties, 2011 UT App. 370.
The court’s reasoning circles around the big picture issue of what constitutes an improvement. While every state has its own parlance, determining whether a company’s service qualifies them to file a mechanics lien always boils down to whether the work was or was not part of an “improvement” to the property. After all, the idea behind a mechanics lien (as explored in our History of the Mechanics Lien post) is that the lien gives folks in the construction industry a right in the property equal to their contribution, so the owner cannot be enriched on the contribution until the constructor or supplier is paid.
But, what if the property isn’t improved…has the owner been enriched? Should the contractor or supplier be entitled to use the property as security when its contribution didn’t improve it in any way?
In Utah, the Court of Appeals reasoned no:
All Clean asserts that we must construe the term “improvement” more broadly to include betterments of any kind, whether or not “affixed” to the premises…[But] the word “improvement” in the mechanics’ lien context does not refer simply to any work that makes the premises better. Rather, “improvement” is a legal term that has been construed to connote physical affixation and enduring change to premises in a manner that adds value. See 56 C.J.S. Mechanics’ Liens § 18 (2007).
Considering this case, it will be very difficult for cleaning services in Utah to ever avail themselves of the mechanics lien laws, as it would be difficult for a cleaning service to ever show a “physical affixation and enduring change to [a] premises.” This isn’t to say cleaning services aren’t lienable elsewhere…