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Who should sign a Washington State Lien Waiver? The customer / homeowner? Or the sub contractors whom did the work.

WashingtonLien Waivers

Hello. I am the homeowner on a large project. I had a contractor who hired sub contractors. I thought that we were on the same page, that we would get a Lien Waver, from each subcontractor, BEFORE we submitted FINAL PAYMENT to the major contractor. They are acting as if they do not know what a Lien waver or Release of Lien is. They gave me one to sign. I thought it was the SUBCONTRACTORS who needed to sign ? Please help? Thank you.

5 replies

May 26, 2020
You are correct, it is the subcontractors who should be signing lien waivers. Not only the subs, but the direct contractor as well. Lien waivers are meant to be submitted in exchange for payment. That company or individual is waiving a certain amount of mechanics lien rights in exchange for an amount of payment. Most construction companies or subcontractors should be familiar with lien waivers, as most jobs require them. Making payments before receiving a lien waiver could result in you, the property owner, being potentially liable for double payment. Keep in mind, that on most residential projects in Washington, in order to have mechanics lien rights the contractor will be required to provide a Model Disclosure Statement, and any sub must send a Notice to Owner. Failing to provide these WA preliminary notices will result in the loss of the right to file a lien against the property. Here are some additional resources you may find helpful:
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May 26, 2020
Thank you. I thought so. This contractor is acting unfamiliar with this process and actually wanted ME to sign the waiver.
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May 27, 2020
Yes, it is the subcontractors who need to sign the waiver. 
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May 27, 2020
The shortest answer is that you, the homeowner, do not sign lien waivers and releases. The contractor and subcontractors do. You can’t waive or release their lien claims.

Without getting too much into the weeds and without knowing what the contract with your general contractor provides, the subcontractors and general contractor should each sign lien waivers (final if no more work is to be done or no more materials are to be provided of partial if the payment is only for work performed or materials provided to date). Conditional lien waivers can be used to have contractors and subcontractors sign before they’re paid. Conditional waivers are only effective if and when the contemplated payment is made.

One danger to avoid where a general contractor is billing for subcontractor work and materials is the potential for double payment. This risk arises where the property owner pays the general contractor for work performed and/or materials supplied by subcontractors and the general contractor does not pay the subcontractors. The subcontractors, unpaid, may still retain their lien rights and must be paid (by the owner if the general contractor won’t pay) even if the owner has already paid the general contractor.

There are a number of ways to deal with this risk in contracts negotiated at the outset of the construction process. There may be ways to address this risk later by amending the construction contract(s).
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May 27, 2020
You are correct that it is the subcontractor who must sign and return to the owner the lien waiver or release. Otherwise, if the general contractor fails to pay the sub, the sub can turn around and file a lien against your home. Many construction contracts require that lien waivers/releases be submitted by the subs to the homeowner prior to or at the time of final payment by the owner to the general contractor.   
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