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A mechanic’s lien refresher for South Carolina subcontractors

During the housing collapse, many construction projects fell through as available financing dried up. This left many project owners without the funds to pay contractors, who in turn could not pay their subcontractors for initial site work that had already been performed. Frequently, construction litigation was required to obtain payment.

As the availability of existing houses remains low, more builders are again starting projects. While it appears that the economy has turned a corner and more buyers are again entering the real estate market, sometimes an owner or contractor will still fail to pay subcontractors for work provided.

Mechanic's liens are powerful tools for contractors and subcontractors. These liens ensure payment for all work performed, but come with strict filing deadlines.

Labor and costs covered

In South Carolina, a person can seek a mechanic's lien when the work performed related to building, improving or repairing a structure on a piece of property. This includes all the work required to prepare a building site, such as boring a well or grading a construction site.

Some other work covered by the South Carolina mechanic's lien statute includes:

  • Preparing plans and design drawings;
  • Excavating and bulldozing work;
  • Paving roads in a potential development, as well as putting in sidewalks and constructing ditches and drainage; and
  • Laying pipe and putting in conduits for electric, gas and water.

The subcontractor must prove that the owner or an agent (a general contractor, for example) consented to the work. An oral agreement with a contractor - even though never placed in writing - to install a new furnace would still satisfy the above requirements.

A person who files a lien can also collect the costs needed to bring the action and reasonable attorney fees when the prevailing party. In addition, Lien rights flow from the nature of the work and completion of the structure is not necessary.

Important deadlines

After finishing work on a project, the contractor or subcontractor has 90 days to serve the owner and file the lien in the county where the property is located. The lien must include an accounting of what is owed and a description of the property. Within six months after completion of the work, the subcontractor will need to bring a lawsuit.

If waiting on a payment from an owner or general contractor, contact a construction law attorney to discuss the situation and the filing deadlines for a mechanic's lien. Failure to follow the deadlines may mean that the remedy is no longer available.