Washington Unconditional Waiver and Release of Claim upon Final Payment

Unconditional Waiver and Release of Claim upon Final Payment for Real Estate Located in Washington

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Contractors who have already recorded a lien against real property may use an unconditional waiver and release of claim upon final payment to surrender their reserved lien rights in exchange for, or to encourage, payment on a balance due.

Washington law requires a lien release upon payment and acceptance of the amount due to the lien claimant and upon the demand of the owner or the person making payment. R.C.W. 60.04.071. If a claimant fails to provide a waiver or release when one is due, the owner can pursue legal action to compel deliverance of the release and if the court determines the delay was unjustified, the court can, in addition to ordering the deliverance of the release, award the costs of the action including reasonable attorneys' fees and any damages. Id.

Given in exchange for full or partial payments, mechanic's lien waivers can be useful at various points during the construction/improvement process. Waivers can also lead to confusion, however, and issuing the wrong kind of waiver (or issuing one too early) can cause dire consequences for the mechanic's lien claimant. Washington's statutes do not provide for any required forms of lien waivers, but contractors may issue their own lien releases, generally under R.C.W. 60.04.071.

There are four main types of lien waivers to choose from, depending on the circumstances of the job. These include: (1) Conditional Waiver and Release of Claim of Lien upon Progress Payment, (2) Conditional Waiver and Release of Claim of Lien upon Final Payment, (3) Unconditional Waiver and Release of Claim of Lien upon Progress Payment, and (4) Unconditional Waiver and Release of Claim of Lien upon Final Payment.

A conditional waiver becomes effective when the payment clears the bank. As such, contractors use this kind of waiver while waiting for payment, or if they need confirmation about the payment method (such as a check). Unconditional waivers take effect when delivered to the property owner. If a lien claimant issues an unconditional waiver and the owner fails to pay or the check bounces, the person receiving the waiver may be freed from all or part of the mechanic's lien obligation without the proper payment. In these situations, the only other remedy may be a costly lawsuit.

Regardless of the terms, waivers must at least identify the claimant, the owner or person responsible for payment, payment amount, the relevant dates, and include the claimant's signature.

Contact an attorney with questions about lien waivers or any other issue relating to liens in Washington.

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