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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>I am a customer who hired a landscaping company to build a paver patio and stairs off the back of my house. I paid for half of the project up front. The company did a terrible job on the patio and stairs. The patio is not at all level, the stairs are uneven and asymmetrical and I swear the picked the most blemished pavers they could find. They also poured sealant on some of the pavers and left it to stain. They have not fixed my sprinkler line they broke in the process. I feel they have not held up their end of our agreement and that until they have completed my project correctly, I should not have to pay them the remainder of the money.Does this company have the right to hold a mechanics lien against me if I tell them to pound sand and I’ll hire someone else to fix their mistakes?

I am a customer who hired a landscaping company to build a paver patio and stairs off the back of my house. I paid for half of the project up front. The company did a terrible job on the patio and stairs. The patio is not at all level, the stairs are uneven and asymmetrical and I swear the picked the most blemished pavers they could find. They also poured sealant on some of the pavers and left it to stain. They have not fixed my sprinkler line they broke in the process. I feel they have not held up their end of our agreement and that until they have completed my project correctly, I should not have to pay them the remainder of the money.Does this company have the right to hold a mechanics lien against me if I tell them to pound sand and I’ll hire someone else to fix their mistakes?

WashingtonMechanics LienRight to Lien

I am a customer who hired a landscaping company to build a paver patio and stairs off the back of my house. I paid for half of the project up front. The company did a terrible job on the patio and stairs. The patio is not at all level, the stairs are uneven and asymmetrical and I swear the picked the most blemished pavers they could find. They also poured sealant on some of the pavers and left it to stain. They have not fixed my sprinkler line they broke in the process. I feel they have not held up their end of our agreement and that until they have completed my project correctly, I should not have to pay them the remainder of the money.Does this company have the right to hold a mechanics lien against me if I tell them to pound sand and I’ll hire someone else to fix their mistakes?

1 reply

Aug 1, 2019
I'm really sorry to hear about that - I'm sure that must be frustrating. Before getting too far along - it's worth mentioning that claimants can typically file a mechanics lien regardless of whether the lien actually has a sound basis. County recorders offices typically have neither the bandwidth nor the authority to scrutinize every claim that's made - so, a lien might be filed even if that lien would ultimately be improper for some reason. Of course, if a lien is improperly filed, then that lien could certainly be challenged by the property's owner.

Anyway - mechanics lien rights are generally available for payment owed for work performed. If work was done and that work has improved the property to some degree, some amount of payment will generally be owed - and lien rights may arise. Granted, when work doesn't comport with the contract, or when work is defective to some degree, there's a fair enough chance that full payment might not be owed. But, determining exactly what is owed can be quite the struggle. Still - a claimant may be able to file a mechanics lien that's valid and enforceable. In the event that the work was truly unacceptable, that lien claim might ultimately be reduced or even eliminated if the lien is challenged, but clarity would only come after a court intervened.

Instead, it might be helpful to try and show issues with the work and to try and negotiate and convince a contractor to either correct the defective work or accept a lower price. If the contractor agrees to fix the defective work, the project could be salvaged, and if they don't - an owner might be able to convince them to accept partial payment in exchange for a lien waiver in order to move on and try and get the project back on track with some other contractor.

Further, when it appears that a mechanics lien filing may be coming, it might be helpful to try and show the prospective lien claimant that their lien would ultimately be invalid or even frivolous. By identifying the defective work and explaining why their proposed lien would be faulty, it might be easier to prevent the lien filing. Specifically, § 60.04.081 of Washington's mechanics lien statute provides a process for owners to challenge excessive or frivolous lien claims. Using that section, an owner can create headaches for a lien claimant who might struggle to back up their claim, and the claimant could even end up paying for the owner's attorney fees if the claimant can't successfully support their claim. So, by showing a prospective lien claim that you intend to fight off their claim and can show them exactly how you'll do it, you might be able to prevent the claimant from filing a lien altogether.

Of course, that's just one of many potential ways of moving forward - for clarity, it might be helpful to consult a local construction attorney. They'd be able to review your circumstances and documentation in detail and advise on how best to proceed in your specific situation.

Lastly, these resources may also be valuable:
(1) I Just Received a Notice of Intent to Lien – What Should I Do Now?
(2) A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
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