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Is my initial notice still valid meaning my lien will be valid?

WashingtonLien DeadlinesPreliminary Notice

The initial notice was sent via certified mail to the previous address of the homeowner and was returned because well, he didnt own that property anymore and wasnt living there. Washington requires service by certified mail for initial notices but it was then resent by regular mail. Would this still be considered a valid service of the initial notice?

1 reply

Oct 12, 2017
This is an interesting question. The first thing to think about, from a practical standpoint, is timing - if the project was the new construction of a single family residence the timeline is short, but if it was not the new construction of a single family residence, the timeline to give notice to fully protect the labor or materials furnished is extended to 60-days. If there is still time in which to send the notice to fully protect against nonpayment, it is best to do so - and the question of the previous notice's service sufficiency is immaterial. It may even be a good idea to re-send a notice correctly if there was any labor or material furnished in the last 60 days (or 10, if the project was the new construction of a single family residence).

Notwithstanding the above, the question of the validity of the service of the original notice is something that may ultimately need to be determined by the court. Mechanics liens are creatures of statute, so they require strict compliance with the rules and requirements. That strict compliance, though, must be balanced with the public policy of ensuring protection for construction participants against nonpayment.

Washington, as you note, requires notice to be given either by:

"(a) Mailing the notice by certified or registered mail to the owner or reputed owner; or (b) Delivering or serving the notice personally upon the owner or reputed owner and obtaining evidence of delivery in the form of a receipt or other acknowledgement signed by the owner or reputed owner or an affidavit of service."

This presents a difficult situation, as even if the regular mail piece was successfully delivered - there is little chance that there was acknowledgment of receipt by the owner. If you could get a letter or something from the owner acknowledging actual receipt, it may move the needle on making the service sufficient. Otherwise, the question would come down to whether mailing the notice certified to the incorrect address is sufficient - which will likely turn on why the notice was sent to that address. For example, if the notice was sent to the incorrect address because that was the address on the contract, or because that was the address provided in the property records, there is a good chance it may be sufficient. If it was just sent to that address because it was a "known" address and there was no inquiry into whether it was correct, it is less likely to be sufficient.
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