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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>we own a small landscaping business in Washington state and occasionally do jobs as sub-contractors for general contractors. We had 2 such jobs in the last 10 days both contractors mismanaged the jobs and claim they are not able to pay for the labor that was provided by us. I'm fairly certain that they have both been paid by the homeowners, but they claim they have not been paid. Meanwhile, we are out over $1,800 that we have paid our guys for labor. But according to what I've read, if the customer paid the general contractor, we're pretty much stuck and out of luck, am I correct? From what we have seen, both of these contractors are enriching themselves at the expense of our small company and we have no recourse via a lien on the property?

we own a small landscaping business in Washington state and occasionally do jobs as sub-contractors for general contractors. We had 2 such jobs in the last 10 days both contractors mismanaged the jobs and claim they are not able to pay for the labor that was provided by us. I'm fairly certain that they have both been paid by the homeowners, but they claim they have not been paid. Meanwhile, we are out over $1,800 that we have paid our guys for labor. But according to what I've read, if the customer paid the general contractor, we're pretty much stuck and out of luck, am I correct? From what we have seen, both of these contractors are enriching themselves at the expense of our small company and we have no recourse via a lien on the property?

WashingtonMechanics LienPayment Disputes

I explained the situation in the above question.

1 reply

Apr 9, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that. However, in Washington, a subcontractor may have mechanics lien rights even in a situation where the property owner has paid the general contractor. In fact, that's a common situation where lien claims are filed - failure to send payments down the payment chain, even where an owner has stayed on top of payments. Granted, at least for the material portion of the labor and/or materials provided, preliminary notice will likely be required prior to filing a mechanics lien - but for labor portions, notice is likely unnecessary (we discuss this idea more in depth here: You Don’t Need Preliminary Notice in Washington For Labor Portion Of Work). It's important to keep deadlines in mind, though, if a lien filing is being considered. In Washington, a mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days from the date services, labor, or materials were last delivered to the project. Liens filed after this deadline are void. Before filing a lien, though, it would be wise to evaluate (and potentially exhaust) all other available options. Sending a payment demands, a Notice of Intent to Lien, or even a letter demanding payment via an attorney have all proven to be successful in speeding up payments. Nobody likes dealing with mechanics liens, so if one of these options can get the job done, it will likely reduce the stress and cost of recovering the debt. Informing both an owner and the non-paying contractor of the intent to move forward by utilizing mechanics lien rights can be especially helpful in Washington considering that the owner will be able to withhold payments from their contractor in the event of lien claims. Plus, if a judgment against the owner or owner's property is made, the contractor may be held responsible and may have to reimburse the owner for a successful claim made by a subcontractor. Ultimately, the threat of using lien rights is often almost as powerful as a lien itself. So if there's time to attempt recovery via some other method, it might be wise to attempt recovery without filing a lien. However, when push comes to shove and as the deadline draws closer, a claimant shouldn't be afraid to file a lien claim to recover what they are due.
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