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Earlier this month, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a mechanic’s lien decision that underscores the benefits of having a qualified mechanic’s lien attorney prepare and file a lien. While the Court ultimately found in favor of the mechanic’s lien claimant, the case demonstrates the quagmire of litigation issues that erupt when irregularities are present in lien filings.
In Desai v. A.R. Design Group, Inc., the Virginia Supreme Court examined the validity of a mechanic’s lien against two residential properties, which was prepared on a form by the vice president of the lien claimant. At issue were three irregularities on the lien form filed in September 2015. First, the property owner took issue with the description of the owner because the lien claimant had identified the owner by name and as “executor” of an estate, rather than as the “trustee” of the estate. Second, the property owner challenged the description of the claimant because the claimant’s vice president had improperly identified himself personally as the lien claimant, rather than identifying himself as the “agent” for the company. Finally, the property owner objected to the lien claimant’s failure to identify the date from which interest was claimed and the date from which the debt was due. Despite those irregularities, the Fairfax County Circuit Court allowed the lien to stand, and the property owner promptly appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Justices examined each problems with the lien, and ultimately agreed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court that none of those irregularities warranted invalidating the lien. However, by the time the decision was issued, nearly two years had passed since the initial filing. First, the Court concluded that adding the word “trustee” was not necessary to identify the property owner, where the description by name and as executor of the estate was sufficient to put subsequent purchasers on notice of the lien. Second, the Court concluded that the vice president’s name in the space reserved for the lien claimant did not mislead or confuse the property owner so as to prejudice the owner and thwart the purpose of the mechanic’s lien statute. Finally, the Court examined the absence of the date for the running of interest and from which the amount was due, but concluded that the absence of both dates did not merit invalidating the lien. In terms of interest, the lien claimant made a decision to not pursue interest, and as such, the Court ruled that the claimant need not state anything concerning interest on the lien. In response to the challenge to the lack of the date from which the amount was due, the Court examined both Virginia Code § 43-4 and Virginia Code § 43-5, and ruled that since the latter section does not include the identification of the time when the amount claimed is due, the lien met the requirements of the statute.
While the lien claimant ultimately prevailed on its lien, it took nearly two years of litigating the validity of the lien in both the Fairfax County Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia to reach that result. That time and expense could have been avoided by having a qualified mechanic’s lien attorney prepare the lien so as to ensure it fully complied with Virginia’s mechanic’s lien statute. The attorneys at BrigliaMcLaughlin are highly skilled in mechanic’s lien law, and frequently assist clients with preparing and defending mechanic’s liens, so as to avoid the lengthy litigation seen in Desai v. A.R. Design Group, Inc. To learn more about BrigliaMcLaughlin, click here.