In the District of Columbia (“DC”), a contractor or subcontractor may record a notice of mechanic’s lien with the DC Recorder of Deeds (land records) at any time during construction or within 90 days following project completion or termination.  If the notice is not recorded in land records upon expiration of the 90-day period following project completion or termination the contractor’s lien rights terminate.  DC ST § 40-301.02(a)(1).   Any contractor who timely records a notice of mechanic’s lien is required to send a copy of the notice to the property owner, by certified mail, within 5 business days after recordation in land records, or by posting a copy on the subject property if the certified mail is unclaimed or undelivered. DC ST § 40-301.02(a)(2).

The notice of mechanic’s lien must include the following:

(1) The name and address of the contractor or the contractor’s registered agent;

(2) The name and address of the owner or the owner’s registered agent;

(3) The name of the party against whose interest a lien is claimed and the amount claimed, less any credit for payments received up to and including the date of the notice of intent;

(4) A description of the work done, including the dates that work was commenced and completed;

(5) A description of the material furnished, including the dates that material was first and last delivered;

(6) A legal description and, to the extent available, a street address of the real property;

(7) A copy of the contractor’s license and certificate of good standing;

(8) If the project is provided under a home improvement contract, a copy of the home improvement contract; and

(9)(A) A sworn, notarized statement affirming under penalty of perjury and upon personal knowledge that:

(i) The contents of the notice of intent are true and correct to the best of the contractor’s information and belief; and

(ii) The contractor has a right to recover the amount claimed.

(B) If a notice of intent is executed by an authorized representative or counsel of the contractor, he or she shall attach evidence of his or her authority to execute the notice of intent on behalf the contractor.

See DC ST § 40-301.02(b).

To access the District of Columbia’s notice of lien form, click here.

Recording a notice of mechanic’s lien with DC land records is only the first step in the process.  If recordation of the notice of lien does not result in payment, the contractor must file a lawsuit to enforce the mechanic’s lien.  In DC, a lawsuit to enforce a mechanic’s lien must be brought within 180 days following recordation of the notice of lien, otherwise the lien is terminated.  The contractor must also file a notice of pendency of action (lis pendens) with land records within ten (10) days of filing the lawsuit.   See DC ST § 40-303.13.

One significant difference between DC’s mechanic’s lien laws compared to the lien laws of neighboring Maryland and Virginia is that second tier subcontractors and suppliers in DC do not have mechanic’s lien rights.   Therefore, only someone with a direct contractual relationship with the owner or general contractor has the right to assert a mechanic’s lien against the subject property.  For example, a subcontractor who contracts directly with the general/prime contractor on a project has mechanic’s lien rights, but the vendor supplying materials to that subcontractor does not since it did not contract directly with the owner or GC.

Mechanic’s liens require strict statutory compliance.  A minor defect, time lapse or technical mistake could result in a contractor’s lien rights being waived or terminated.  It is important to promptly consult with a lawyer if you are owed money on a construction project in the District of Columbia.  Mike Bramnick is experienced in this area of the law and can help navigate unpaid contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and other construction professionals through this complicated process.  Contact Mike Bramnick today at (301) 547-3647 or by e-mail at Mike@BramnickCreed.com for a consultation.

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Consult an attorney before relying on any information contained herein.