Work was completed in a Washington DC residence, customer refuses to pay. Company has a valid License in Maryland and a certificate of good standing. Can we file a Mechanical Lien in the District of Columbia?
Jan 6, 2020
According to Washington DC's mechanics lien statute, contractors and subcontractors who are properly licensed in their home jurisdiction don't necessarily need to be licensed in Washington DC in order to file a mechanics lien there. Rather, by the letter of the law, if the claimant provides the requisite paperwork which proves they're properly licensed and in good standing in their home jurisdiction, then a subcontractor may well be entitled to file a lien without being licensed there as long as they don't regularly conduct business in the state.
However, practically, getting a lien filed in Washington DC might not be possible without a DC license. The Washington DC recorder is known for rejecting contractors' and subcontractors' mechanics lien filings for failure to hold a Washington DC license even if the subcontractor isn't "doing business" in the state.
So, as a practical matter, a contractor may have a tough time filing their mechanics lien claim with the Washington DC recorder's office if they don't hold a license in the district.
For more information on Washington DC mechanics liens: Washington DC Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs.
To further complicate your situation, it sounds like you do not have a District of Columbia Home Improvement Contractor's License. If that's the case, then under District of Columbia law the contract to perform work at the residential location is null and void, and your customer, believe it or not, can sue you for the return of all funds paid to you, in an action known as "disgorgement."
I would chalk this one up to an expensive lesson learned and walk away, fast!