Removing a Frivolous Contractor's Lien in Washington
By Patrick C. Burpee
You recently learned that a contractor recorded a lien claim on your property. However, the contractor never completed your remodel project or the work that was performed was done improperly. You may have had to hire another contractor to finish the project you paid the original contractor to complete, costing you even more money. Now the contractor's lien is going to screw up your plans to refinance or sell your home. Surprisingly, your situation is not unique. Many contractors in Washington improperly record liens on real estate to force payment for excessive fees or fees that are not legitimately owed.
Fortunately, Washington state law provides a cost-effective mechanism for homeowners to remove liens recorded on their property, provided certain requirements are met. This article explores the general requirements in Washington for removing a frivolous contractor's lien.
An owner of real property (or their attorney) with a recorded lien on their property who believes the lien to be frivolous and made without reasonable cause, or clearly excessive, may file a motion in the superior court of the county where the property is located, for an order directing the contractor to appear before the court for a special hearing. The timeline for this hearing is fortunately very short. In other words, the hearing must be held within fifteen days from the date the contractor is served with the court's order. The motion must state the precise grounds justifying the court's removal of the lien, and shall be supported by the sworn affidavit of the homeowner (or his or her attorney) setting forth a concise statement of the facts upon which the homeowner's motion is based.
At the hearing, the contractor must justify why the motion to remove the frivolous lien should not be granted by the court. If, following the hearing, the court determines that the lien is indeed frivolous and made without reasonable cause, or clearly excessive, the court shall issue an order releasing the lien. Additionally, the court will award the homeowner their costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. In other words, the contractor will have to reimburse you for the attorney fees you incurred to have the lien removed!
It is important to also understand that even if the contractor properly performed under the contract with the homeowner, a contractor must follow the rigid requirements imposed by Washington state law in order to have a valid lien. Indeed, there are various disclosure statements and deadlines for providing homeowners with these disclosures. There are also deadlines for recording of a lien and even strict requirements for what the claim of lien must contain at the time it is recorded.
Since Washington lien laws are to be strictly enforced, a technical mistake by the contractor can render the lien improper. Many contractors are simply unaware of all the requirements imposed on them by state law. For example, if a "Contractor Disclosure Statement" required by RCW 18.27.005 is not provided (or timely provided), the contractor is prohibited from bringing a lien claim. The contractor's action may even violate the Washington Consumer Protection Act which can triple a homeowner's monetary damages.
In summary, don't feel like you have to simply give in to the contractor's underhanded lien tactics. You have rights and we can help. Contact our attorney to discuss the removal of a frivolous lien recorded on your property.
The Law Office of Patrick C. Burpee, LLC is a federally designated debt relief agency. We assist consumers with filing for bankruptcy under the Federal Bankruptcy laws.
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