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Finally , perhaps the most deadly predator of mechanics’liens in Maryland is the humble lien release. That seemingly harmless paperwork submitted monthly with applications for payment can have the implacable effect of waiving and releasing your rights to any mechanics lien on a construction project for any work occurring before the date you signed that lien release, regardless of whether you were actually paid for the work you intend to lien.
Second, when the time comes to submit a lien release (whether for monthly payment or otherwise), don’t sign that release without carving out your right to file a mechanics’lien for any work that may be disputed or unpaid at that time. This could be quite a long list of unpaid work, but would definitely include disputed change order work, unpaid base contract work, and impacted/delayed work. As I say in my seminars on protecting construction claims,“don’t sign that lien release ... yet!” Finally, if you do decide to file for a mechanics’lien, give your attorney plenty of time to prepare the pleadings. In my opinion, mechanics’liens (in Maryland or elsewhere) are the most complicated lawsuits that a construction attorney puts together. Thinking ahead and giving your attorney lead time will ensure that they and you don’t fall needlessly into the many pitfalls surrounding mechanics’liens. This column is intended to provide educational material only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Before proceeding with or defending any claim, you should carefully evaluate your contract and related legal rights, and seek the direct counsel of a construction attorney.
Avoiding the Pitfalls on the Way to a Lien
All of these pitfalls can be avoided, however, by the application of good systems.
First, put Maryland’s 120- and 180-day deadlines on your calendar. Make this a part of your project closeout to start a“clock”or reminder the day you finish work on a given project, and if you are coming up on those deadlines, start the machinery to give notice and/or file for a mechanics’lien. 120 days is plenty of time to prepare your lien claim, but only if you are paying attention to the deadline.
If you want to learn more skills and tips about avoiding construction claim pitfalls, you can receive a free copy of my book, The Subcontractor’s Roadmap to Getting Paid for Extra Work by emailing me at email@example.com.
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