By Nicholas D. Krawec, Esq., Partner
If you are reading this article, chances are that you are involved in the construction industry as a contractor, subcontractor or material supplier on large Pennsylvania construction projects, and the words “changes to the Pennsylvania Mechanics’ Lien Law” caught your eye. That’s good, because if indeed you are engaged in the construction industry, you should become familiar with these changes.
Recently, Sections 201, 501.1 and 501.6 of the Pennsylvania Mechanics’ Lien Law were amended or implemented. To read more details as to the specifics of the amendment, click here. The amendment to Section 201 of the statute adds some definitions that you will need to be aware of when the rest of the amendments take effect by December 31, 2016 (if not sooner). The “construction notice” identifies certain new notice requirements upon contractors and subcontractors alike (in addition to the notice requirements already imposed by the statute).
New sections 501.1 and 501.6 have already taken effect. Section 501.1 requires the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services (DGS) to establish an internet website which will be known as the State Construction Notices Directory, which will serve as a statewide system for the filing of construction notices. The directory is to be implemented by December 31, 2016, and section 501.1(c) sets forth the timing and means whereby the DGS is to notify the public and the construction industry when the directory is implemented, the purpose of the directory and instructions for its use.
The “construction notice” provisions set forth in pending new sections 501.2 and 501.3 which will have the most direct effect the rights of contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers will not take effect until December 31, 2016, or upon publication of the operational date of the State Construction Notices Directory by the DGS (which possibly could be sooner than December 31, 2016). Once the directory becomes operational, the additional notice provisions of Sections 501.2 through 501.5 will apply to projects commenced on or after the operational date of the State Construction Notices Directory. Nothing of immediate significance has really changed yet, because the Directory has not yet been implemented; that implementation will be the triggering event for the construction notice provisions to take effect. These new construction notice provisions will be in addition to, and not in replacement of, the notice provisions already set forth in the Mechanics’ Lien statute…the subcontractor or material supplier’s formal notice to the property owner of intention to file a mechanics’ lien claim.
So, the minefield of notices and deadlines that already plague the pursuit of your mechanics’ lien rights (notices and deadlines which, if missed, could be fatal to your mechanic’s lien rights) will become that much more treacherous to navigate. By the same token, the establishment of the State Construction Notices Directory will provide contractors and subcontractors with access to a public record and resource, which they do not presently have, and it will be required to provide information which will make preparing the formal notice and the mechanics’ lien claim a bit easier. Nevertheless, I would not recommend trying to file your own mechanics’ lien claims, or preparing and filing your own construction notices once the directory is implemented. There are likely to be some “growing pains” associated with the implementation of the directory and the notice requirements. I would encourage all construction contractors and subcontractors to seek legal advice and guidance when attempting to protect and enforce mechanics’ lien rights.