The Supreme Court of Utah cleared up a tiny uncertainty about Utah’s mechanics lien law when it invalidated a lien claim since a Notice of Lis Pendens was not filed within 180 days from the mechanics lien filing.

Although the lien claimants argued that the defendants had “notice” of the foreclosure action, and therefore, were exempted from the Lis Pendens requirement, the court ruled against them because the “notice” exception only applies if the notice was provided within that same 180 day period.  The case in question is VCS Inc. v. La Salle Dev LLC.

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The confusion about the Lis Pendens requirement arises from Utah Mechanic’s Lien Law §38-1-11 (3), which provides:

(3)(a) Within [180 days from filing the mechanics lien claim] the claimant shall file for record with the county recorder of each county in which the lien is recorded a notice of the pendency of the action, in the manner provided in actions affecting the title or right to possession of real property, or the lien shall be void, except as to persons who have been made parties to the action and persons having actual knowledge of the commencement of the action.

As the Utah court indicated, the plaint text of the statutory exceptions does not make any express reference to a timeframe. VCS tried to exploit this ambiguity to assert that a lis pendens was not required whenever persons were made parties to a foreclosure action.

The Utah Supreme Court refused to buy-in, however, holding that the statute clearly implicates some timeframe, and “the most natural reading of the exceptions is that they incorporate the only timeframe set forth in the staute – which is the 180 day timeframe.

The Supreme Court also stated the most obvious problem with VCS’s argument, that such a reading would “effectively nullify the 180-day requirement set forth in the general rule.”