Can I put a mechanics lien on someone if I was the laborer that was not paid?

3 weeks ago

I’m a real estate agent in WA state. I recently had a listing working with an investor “flipper” that lived in San Diego. When the appraiser came back with , ‘subject to’ conditions, the seller was not going to come up and do the repairs and I kicked my dedication and knowledge of underwriters and guidelines and assured him the only way to close is to meet the requirements. After scraping and repainting a section and sending it to the appraiser for approval, my client put money into my bank for supplies and laborers for $300. The day I picked up the paint I talked to my seller telling him I would need him to deposit additional funds for the supplies, paint was $200 alone, I cleared with him how long it should take and how much to pay the workers, my workers quit within a half hour, the seller never put another dime in and had me giving out the gutter guy $300/$550 and dump run guy $160, so I personally repainted, scraped, stained, vacuumed paint chips out of the mud in the snow even….. everything appraiser asked for which included scraping and repainting the entire house, demolition of a part of the old garage structure, staining and painting all the gates, fencing, and decks, removal and disposal of all paint chips, replacing and repainting a shingle, installation of heaters in bedrooms, carving out access to the attic on top of the roof gable, caulking entire exterior and filling all exterior cracks, installation of gutters, outlet covers, repainted the trim and the garage. When I was purely exhausted, I remember telling him, I don’t want to hear a word about my invoice when you see it. He signs his docs and complained that he was overcharged the buyer credit, and I was supposed to have 2.5% not 3… I showed him the PSA where I had taken off .5% at the purchase and he said I could put it on the resale, it is clearly in our listing agreement. Five days after he signed we closed, I went to title to pick up the escrow check for my invoice and the title company informs me that he denied my invoice and wired him his money. I rang and rang up my client, who I currently have another listing with, he won’t discuss it. I dialed for dollars that night trying my best to find a buyer for his other listing, he likely will try to get me off of it asap and so I didn’t want to lose that commission too. I got an offer within two hours and he didn’t take it or address, deny, or dispute the invoice at all. But told one of our mutual friends “Can you believe that agent, trying to slip the $4k bill in there…?” This guy is a total narcissist and lying through his teeth. He text me “get it done, I want to keep this buyer, Im not paying another payment” and when the work was signed off on by the appraiser, he text “You’re fucking Amazing” Now how can I recover the money? I was told because I’m not a licensed contractor I can’t put a mechanics lien on him, but now I read that if you are the “laborer” that isn’t paid, you can????

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
139 reviews

Washington is very strict about its licensing requirements – and, if a license is required but not held, then lien rights will be out the window. Though, importantly: a license is only a mechanics lien requirement if the work that was done required a license. And, it’s common for minor, non-invasive work to not trigger license requirements.

But, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an expert on Washington’s licensing rules – so for insight into whether your work would require licensure to preserve lien rights, it’d be helpful to consult with a local Washington construction attorney.

To be sure, though: If a lien claim were on the table, then only amounts related to the physical improvement of the property would be subject to lien. Mechanics lien rights aren’t available for the work of a real estate agent in Washington.

For more on Washington’s lien laws: Washington Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs.

Other recovery options may make more sense than stretching mechanics lien rights

Owners aren’t entitled to break their listing agreements willy-nilly, and other recovery options will likely be on the table if an owner breaches their agreement. So, it may be wise to consider some options that are directly tailored to the agency work that was done but not paid for. And, for help on that front, reaching out to a local Washington real estate attorney could help quite a bit. Further, after determining what options may be on the table, sending a demand letter could lead to payment without the need for actual legal action.

This is to say that while there may be some argument that a mechanics lien could be appropriate, it’s usually a better idea to use laws as they were intended by the Washington legislature.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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Anonymous

I paid $150 to our local Go-To attorney (THE Man on all things in RE Law!!) the next day after closing and not getting paid.  I’m maybe not be being clear or understanding clearly, because I am going after him for the cash he had me pay these guys and HE negotiated with, on his own, for labor I wasn’t paid a dime for and supplies he had me get to do the work. I have tons of texts communicating this to prove my case. Is it then a small claims thing since it’s really not related to me being his agent? And if so, can I put the judgement lien on any and everything until I’m paid?

 

Thank you for your time, you’re outstanding!!

 

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