Question from Teetyi, Can Employees File a Mechanic’s Lien in Virginia?
Answer from AI:
If you are an employee of a licensed contractor and have not been paid for your work on a construction project, such as repairing a roof on a privately owned residence, you may be considering your options for securing payment. One potential remedy in the construction industry is the mechanic’s lien. However, the ability to file a mechanic’s lien in Virginia depends on several factors, including your role in the project and the state’s specific lien laws.
Understanding Mechanic’s Liens
A mechanic’s lien is a legal claim against a property that has been remodeled or improved. In many states, contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers can use mechanic’s liens to secure payment for their work or supplies. The lien makes it difficult for the property owner to sell or refinance the property without first addressing the outstanding debt.
Eligibility for Filing a Mechanic’s Lien in Virginia
In Virginia, the Mechanic’s Lien Law is outlined in Virginia Code § 43-3. According to this law, those who are entitled to a mechanic’s lien include contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers who have a direct contract with the owner or general contractor. However, the law does not explicitly provide the same right to individual employees of a contractor or subcontractor.
Steps for Licensed Contractors and Subcontractors
- File a Memorandum of Lien within 90 days of the last day of the month in which the claimant last performed work or furnished materials, and no later than 90 days from the completion of the project.
- Enforce the lien by filing a lawsuit within six months from the date the Memorandum of Lien was filed.
Options for Employees Seeking Payment
As an employee, your primary legal relationship regarding wages is with your employer, not the property owner. Therefore, the typical course of action would be to:
- Attempt to resolve the issue directly with your employer.
- File a wage claim with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry if the employer refuses to pay.
- Consider filing a lawsuit for breach of contract or unpaid wages.
When to Seek Legal Advice
Since mechanic’s liens and wage disputes can be complex, it’s important to seek personalized legal advice. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and the best course of action based on the specifics of your situation. They can also assist with filing a lawsuit or wage claim if necessary.
While mechanic’s liens are a powerful tool for securing payment in the construction industry, they are generally not available to employees of contractors or subcontractors in Virginia. If you find yourself in a situation where your employer has breached your contract and refuses to pay you, consider other legal remedies and consult with a legal professional to explore your options.