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The Lien blog is constantly writing about both effective and potential changes in a state’s mechanics lien law.  As we’ve noted, sometimes these changes can be innocuous, such as when Louisiana substitutes an English word for Latin one for its statutes, but others, such as Illinois’ proposed bonding-off amendment, can have major consequences.  Virginia is currently one of those states that into the latter category: Just three little lines that were recently added to the Virginia’s mechanics lien law are sure to have a huge effect.

How Did Virginia Mechanics Lien Law Change?

After bouncing around both houses of the Virginia legislature and their respective committees for just a little more than two months, Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law the following amendment’s to his state’s mechanics lien law:

A person who performs labor without a valid license or certificate issued by the Board for Contractors pursuant to Chapter 11 or without the proper class of license for the value of the work to be performed, when such a license or certificate is required by law for the labor performed shall not be entitled to a lien pursuant to this section.

The message of the amendment is clear: Either get a contractor’s license from the state first or lose your right to file a mechanics lien later.  Although not many states currently have strict standards for who can file a mechanics lien, Virginia may be been inspired by New York mechanics lien law, which bars parties without both a contractor’s license and a license to do business from filing a mechanics lien.

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The statute does add a few other requirements that potential Virginia lien claimants should be aware of:

  1. Starting July 13, 2013, the date that these amendments become effective, a memorandum of lien must include both the claimant’s state license or certificate number and the date the claimant obtained that license as well as its expiration date.
  2. Inaccuracies in this memorandum of lien, such as reporting the wrong license number or expiration date, will not bar a claimant from perfecting a lien so long as the correct information can be verified by the Board of Contractors.
  3. If a building permit has the name and other important information of a lien agent, then a claimant must also file notice with that lien agent in certain circumstances.  This notice must also contain the claimant’s license number, date the license was obtained, as well as expiration date.

For the sake of thoroughness, the amendments, for some reason, also substituted “30” for “thirty” in the context of how many days a claimant has to file a lien on a one or two family residential unit.

Moving Forward

As we discussed earlier, the law is pretty straightforward:  Either get a license or certificate from the state before July 13, 2013, or lose the right to file and later sue to foreclose on a mechanics lien under Virginia lien law.  The three months between the date the bill was signed into law – March 13, 2013 – and the date it becomes effective will hopefully be enough time for those that don’t currently have licenses to get them soon.