DEADLINE TO FILE LIEN
By Benjamin D. Johnson, Esq.
Bennett Tueller Johnson & Deere
A common misconception is that a mechanic’s lien must be filed within 90 days of a contractor or supplier’s last labor, material or services. In fact, the time frame to file a lien will likely be much longer. If a notice of completion has not been filed with the State Construction Registry, a lien claimant has 180 days from completion of the entire project. When a project is deemed complete is defined by state law. If a certificate of occupancy is required for the project, completion occurs when the jurisdiction issuing the building permit issues a permanent certificate of occupancy. If a certificate of occupancy is not required for the project, but a final inspection is required for the project, completion occurs when the project passes a final inspection. If neither a certificate of occupancy nor final inspection are required for a project, a lien must be filed within 180 days of substantial completion of the project. Determining when a project is completed oftentimes requires information from the local building department. Because the lien filing deadlines are often based on completion of the entire project, some contractors and suppliers may have months or even years from their last date of work before their lien rights expire. For example, if an excavator digs the foundation for a residential home and isn’t paid, and if the home is completed (i.e., the certificate of occupancy is issued) two years later, the excavator has 180 days from the completion of the home to file his lien, even though his own work was finished long ago. The window of opportunity to file a lien changes if a notice of completion is filed with the State Construction Registry. If a notice of completion is filed with the State Construction Registry, the time frame to file a lien is shortened and the lien must be filed within 90 days of the date that the notice of completion is filed.