I Didn’t File My Lien On Time…Now What?

Over the weekend, I answered a question over on Avvo.com about mechanic liens that gets asked very often, and I thought it was a good idea to share here.

The question is this: What are my legal rights as a contractor if my lien is not filed on time?

The question was asked related to Washington law, but the answer is applicable around the nation. Mechanic liens are an excellent remedy – and I highly recommend preserving and using these rights when needed. However, they are not a contractor’s only remedy.

What other rights does a contractor have? Take a look at my answer here:

Liens are a terrific remedy for contractors. If you’re unpaid and file your lien on time, you acquire security rights against the property itself and are legally able to file suit against parties who you did NOT contract with (i.e. the property owner, if you are a sub).

However, if you don’t file a lien, you still have plenty of legal rights to recover what is owed to you.

Your rights, however, are exclusively against the party who you contract with. You have an action against them for breach of contract. The period to bring this suit is quite a bit longer, between 3-6 years, depending on the type of contract.*

*This is the statute for Washington. Remember that the statute of limitations will be different depending on your state.

It’s important to contact a great construction attorney to bring a breach of contract suit if you are unpaid, and are too late to proceed with lien rights. Find a construction attorney in your area at Avvo.com.

This article was originally posted on Zlien’s topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Remembering Katrina: Stones Taught Me To Fly

Hurricane Katrina delayed my bar results, destroyed my house and changed my plans. It’s hard to believe that 5 years have gone by, and it’s been about that long since I’ve looked at these pictures. They were taken in the months after the storm, when I was starting Wolfe Law Group and getting back on track.

A lot of our family, friends and colleagues have had a very difficult half-decade. Hurricane Katrina’s effects are fading, but they aren’t gone. Just from my own personal experience in the legal profession, I can see the storm’s impact lingering as the subject of on-going litigation.

The city is, however, making it along. And I feel quite lucky to have a great staff, great clients and great family and friends, who without which, Wolfe Law Group could not be the success it is today. Thanks to all of you.

Click on any photo in the main window to see description. For great professional photos, see this story from Boston.com.

Join the Wolfe Law Group Fantasy Football Team

Construction Law?  Fantasy Football?  Let's see if they go hand-in-hand

What can we say, being from New Orleans with the Saints as the reigning champions has us all excited about the 2010 NFL Football Season. That’s why we’ve gotten together with our friends at Zlien and set up an NFL Fantasy Football League through Yahoo!

And we’re inviting participation from our clients, colleagues, readers and friends. To sign up, just click on this link and set up your team. You will need to know the password, and the password is “construction.”

I must warn you….the Wolfe Law Group staff not only knows the law, we know football. So be prepared to lose.

Liens Are Just One Way To Collect Debt – Other Best Collection Practices

I love a great article about collection practices. Not only is a topic I’ve written about in the past (see posts from the Construction Lien Blog here, and from the this blog here), but it’s one of the more important topics for those in the construction industry.

Consider a “bad debt calculator.” I love these types of calculators, because it puts the tragedy of bad debt in your face. Take a modest amount of bad debt ($25,000), and a candid profit margin (5%), and you’ll see that it takes $500,000 of revenue to recover the lost income. Amazing.

Last week, Melissa Brumback’s Construction Law in North Carolina blog posted a blog post with “8 Best Collection Practices.” The article does a great job of hitting on the things you can do to minimize your bad debt – and things, that we’ve even said over and over: Be careful when extending credit, have a written contract, and don’t let too much time pass before implementing your collection procedures.

These, of course, are just a few tips. The post does a great job of enumerating each tip and discussing their importance, so there is not need for me to regurgitate it here…just take a look at Melissa’s post for more.

Joint Ventures and Contractor Licensing – Not A Simple Topic

You’re looking to work on a construction project…but you don’t have a license.   Surprisingly, this happens quite often.

Perhaps you’re to the industry, or a company trying to work in a neighboring state to take advantage of an opportunity there.   Before you prepare a bid or sign a contract, the first order of business is getting legal.    And depending on where you are, that usually means becoming a licensed contractor.

When our office is approached with these types of situations, we’re frequently asked if a “joint venture” with a licensed contractor can resolve any licensing deficiencies with the unlicensed party.   The answer to this question depends on where you are, and the circumstances of the project.

In the past, we’ve highlighted Mike Purdy’s Public Contracting Blog (it’s an excellent resource on prevailing wage and public contracting issues – previous posts here).   Last week, Mike discussed this interesting and popular question on the contractor licensing requirements for joint ventures.

His post focuses on Washington law.    In Washington, RCW 18.27.065 provides as follows:

A partnership or joint venture shall be deemed registered under this chapter if any one of the general partners or venturers whose name appears in the name under which the partnership or venture does business is registered.

The key here, as Mike points out in his well-written blog post, is whether the registered member of the venture is in the JV’s name.

Louisiana’s contractor licensing law treats this situation exactly opposite from Washington.    Here is a snippet from the Louisiana State Board of Contractor’s website, on their FAQ page:

I want to do a joint venture with a licensed Louisiana contractor. How does that work?

All parties in a joint venture are required to be licensed at the time the bid is submitted. Each party to the joint venture may only perform within the applicable classifications of the work of which he is properly classified to perform (Section 1103 of the Rules and Regulations of the Board).

So indeed, where you are is critical to the question of whether you can or cannot by-pass contractor licensing or registration requirements by partnering with a registered company.

And this becomes another example of how working on a construction project in one state can be legally much different than working in another state.   What are some of the other examples?    How state laws treat Pay When Paid Clauses, and the different requirements for Mechanic Liens and Preliminary Notices.

Assembly of Good Resources on Oregon Construction Liens

When you’re not paid on a construction project you turn to the Internet to find answers about collections and mechanics liens. In 2010, it’s the natural thing to do. When you’re sick, you turn to sites like WebMD. When you’re not paid, you look to learn about efficient ways to collect, and you turn to sites like this one.

While we work hard to provide great construction and mechanics lien resources, there’s no need for us to be greedy and re-publish every single feature of the mechanic lien laws. There’s a lot of great information on other websites out there, and everyone once in a while, we find it useful to our readers to stop and point to those other resources.

This post does just that, as it relates to Oregon Mechanics Lien laws.

Let’s Start With Me

I know I just talked about not being self-centered when it comes to posting information, but there’s not harm in starting this post with a re-cap of the resources we’ve published here and elsewhere.

The Lien Law Summary Sheet for Oregon

The Construction Lien Blog’s posts concerning Oregon

Avvo.com Legal Guide published by Scott Wolfe Jr. on Oregon Mechanic Liens

— The Northwest Construction Law Blog’s posts on Oregon Mechanic Liens and Construction Lien Laws.

Some Others

— An Associated General Contractors chapter in Oregon has published the Oregon Construction Lien Pamphlet. The Pamphlet does an excellent job of summarizing some of the notice requirements in Oregon, which while not very complex, are very strict. Oregon’s notice requirement is one of the fastest expiring anywhere in the country – while some states allow for 60 day notices (Washington), or 20 day notices (California), Oregon requires the Notice to Owner be sent within just 8 days! So, better be on top of things. This Pamphlet helps.

— I recently came across a service called “Deeper Web? (@about_law)” From how things look to me, this website scans the web for relevant articles and information on a specific topic, and displays all the results in a magazine-like format in one location. I’m not familiar enough with the website to say it works all the time…but, I am impressed with their “Special Report on Oregon Construction Lien Laws.” Some neat things this site links to is the Oregon Contractors Board’s page for consumer help containing information on Oregon lien laws, and a great discussion on LinkedIn on whether a lien can be filed against someone who has filed for bankruptcy.

— No better place to get information on Oregon Lien Laws than from the horse’s mouth. Here, that’s the Oregon Contractor’s Board. Their website has a number of good publications that can help contractors and property owners, but most relevant here is the Construction Lien Pamphlet written “to inform contractors and consumers about Oregon’s construction lien laws.”

This article was originally posted on Zlien’s topic-specific Construction Lien Blog.

Where Have I Been? Fixing Server Problems

Getting Construction Law Monitor Back to SnuffIf you’re a frequent reader of the Construction Law Monitor (and our other blogs) you may have noticed two things:  (1)  About a month ago, our website went down two or three times; and (2) There haven’t been many posts since then.

Well, that was all GoDaddy’s fault (booooo).   I highly do not recommend their hosting products.   We were a dedicated server customer for over five years, and their responsiveness to the server problems and help with our account was awful.  Enough about them.

We spent the past month moving our sites to the new server.   While it was a long haul, and there were some bumps, we’re happy to be finished with our move.

The blog and website are noticeably faster than before, and I can assure you – the sites will be more reliable than ever.

It’s a shame that the server switch took so much time and energy, and really made blogging and other updates difficult.   But, all is right with the world again, and we’ll be posting more regularly and rolling out some updates to the sites soon.

Stay tuned!

Guest Post on Musings on Avoiding Residential Construction Disputes

A big thanks to Christopher Hill (@constructionlaw) for inviting me to guest post on his Construction Law Musings blog for the fourth time.

The post discussed how to “Prepare For and Avoid Residential Construction Disputes,” and looked at the issue from the perspective of both the homeowner and the residential contractor.  Here is a tease:

Residential construction disputes come in all shapes and sizes, but very typically have one thing in common: they can get very nasty.

This is understandable, especially in today’s economy. The homeowner is spending hard-earned money on something very personal to them, their home. They want it done right. The contractor is working on really tight margins, and with a diligent client.

These disputes can become frustrating legal battles that costs thousands of dollars. And since it’s such a hot topic politically (there is lots of pressure for legislatures to protect against construction fraud), many states have layers of consumer protection laws that are consequential to both the residential contractor and the homeowner.

Read the full post at Chris’ blog, Construction Law Musings.