At Sodagar & Company, HK we have particular expertise in builders liens, from a detailed understanding of their purpose, to the creation, preservation, perfection and enforcement of liens. In British Columbia, The BC Builders Lien Act (the Act) is the governing legislation that assists those who have worked on a construction project or supplied material to it, but haven’t been paid. Under this law, they can file a charge against the property to secure payment of the money owed to them. Under the Act, if you are an architect, engineer, worker, material supplier, contractor or subcontractor, you are entitled to file a lien on a project if you have not been paid for providing services or material with respect to a construction project.
The Act provides for strict time limits for filing a lien. Generally, the you must file a lien is 45 days after the project is substantially completed, abandoned or ended. But it may be necessary to file your lien sooner.
Three different events can start the clock running to file lien:
- a “certificate of completion” is issued
- the head contract is completed, abandoned, or terminated (if there is a head contract)
- the improvement is completed or abandoned (if there is no head contract)
Simple completion, termination, or abandonment of a subcontract, or a contract that is not a head contract, will not itself start the clock running to file a lien.
Once a “certificate of completion” is issued for a contract or subcontract, then the deadline is 45 days from the date the certificate was issued. Condominium projects and mines and quarries have different deadlines.
Even if a claimant has not filed a lien within the time limit, they may still be able to file a lien against holdback funds that have not yet been distributed. The leading cases relating to this are: Shimco Metal Erectors Ltd., 2002 BCSC 238 and 2003 BCCA 193 and Wah Fai Plumbing & Heating Inc., 2011 BCCA 26.
After filing a lien, you must commence an action in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to enforce the lien and prove that it is valid. Again, the Act imposes a strict one year time limit from the date of the lien for commencing the action for the enforcement of the lien.
Because a builders lien is registered against the land, it can interfere with the registered owner’s ability to sell the property or maintain mortgage financing for the project. This may encourage the registered owner to come to a resolution.
At Sodagar & Company, we assist both lien claimants and property owners in navigating through the requirements of the Act in resolving builders lien related disputes by way of litigation, arbitration and mediation. We take a business approach knowing that clients who are engaged in real estate construction require disputes to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.