The Construction Lien in Washington - A Legal Analysis for the Construction Industry (Updated 2019)


Construction lien rights arise when a person or an entity begins to provide labor, professional services, materials or equipment (“lienable work”) to improve privately owned real property at the instance (directly or through an agent) of the property owner. Lien rights, initially inchoate, attach to the improvement and (usually) to the property being improved. These subjects are discussed in Chapter Two, “The Elements of a Construction Lien.”

To develop inchoate lien rights into an enforceable lien, the lien claimant must perfect the lien by taking certain actions. The first step (for some claimants) is to submit a pre-claim notice of lien rights. The notice requirement varies depending on the kind of project and on the proximity of relationship between the lien claimant and the property owner. Certain parties may be required to give notices even if no lien is claimed. These subjects are discussed in Chapter Three, “Pre-Claim Notices.” The next step in perfecting a lien is to record a written claim of lien in the public property records of the county where the project is located. This subject is discussed in Chapter Four, “Recording a Construction Lien Claim.”

The final step in perfecting a lien is a civil action to foreclose the lien. This action resolves the validity of the underlying claim, the validity of the lien and the relative priority of the lien with respect to other property interests. If the claimant is successful, the court may order the liened property to be sold. Some parties may have a right to redeem the property from the sale. These subjects are discussed in Chapter Five, “Foreclosing a Construction Lien Claim.”

Property owners and other interested parties have various potential defenses and other actions they can take in response to lien claims, including a summary proceeding to challenge a lien claim that is believed to be frivolous or clearly excessive. These subjects are discussed in Chapter Six, “Defending a Construction Lien Claim.”

This book also contains a chapter describing another lien-like remedy applicable to private projects. This is Chapter Seven, “The Stop Notice.”

The final chapter covers statutes protecting persons providing labor, materials and equipment on public projects, where normal liens are not allowed. This is Chapter Eight, “Lien-Like Remedies on Public Projects.” 

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