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Can I file a mechanics lien on the project described below?

UtahLien DeadlinesMechanics LienPreliminary NoticeRecovery Options

Gentlemen, I’m writing to request information related to filing a lien on an owner-occupied residence in the state of Utah for unpaid architectural and engineering fees and expenses. We started work on August 29, 2017 with a site visit accompanied by the client. We finished the architectural drawings and received the structural engineer’s drawings and calculations on December 11, 2017. The client was notified that we needed to set up a meeting in order to deliver the final drawings and calculations into his hands and to receive a final payment for our services. An invoice was sent at the same time. A day or two later the client emailed us to argue that he thought he was being overbilled and indicated that he wasn’t willing to pay anything further. We emailed back and forth a few times. Our last communication with him was on December 20, 2017 wherein I offered a $500 credit; however he has never responded. I’ve since learned that the client is using a set of nearly-completed drawings that were sent to him as a review set just prior to finishing the project. That set of drawings does not include the structural drawings or any professionally stamped drawings or the engineer’s calculations. The client is now using those drawings to do the construction without paying for them and is also proceeding with construction without obtaining a building permit. I need to know what my lien rights are in this situation. Obviously we never filed a preliminary notice since we never anticipated needing to file a lien. My current position is that since the client has refused to meet and accept the final set of construction documents, we have not yet completed the project. As I understand it, the client is currently in the middle of obtaining financing for the new construction so NOW is the time to get a lien filed if it’s at all possible to do so. I’d would very much like to be in front of the bank on this. I would appreciate your input as to how I should proceed at this point. Thank you.

1 reply

Jan 9, 2018
Thank you for your question! I'm sorry to hear about that. In Utah, Preconstruction Liens (for services such as planning or designing, or to assist in the planning or design of, an improvement or a proposed improvement) require Notice of Preconstruction Service to be filed with the Utah Registry. The timing of this notice is based on the commencement of a project rather than the completion - it must be sent no later than 20 days after the person commences providing preconstruction service for the anticipated improvement on the real property. Where that notice has not been sent, no valid preconstruction lien may be claimed. Of course, just because lien rights may not exist on a project doesn't mean that all options for recovery are lost - unjust enrichment or breach of contract claims may be effective routes for recovery where lien rights are not available.
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