So you’ve managed to successfully file a construction lien claim in New Jersey. Well, don’t then kick back and relax for too long, because if you fail to take action to enforce that lien claim within the limited time required by statute, the lien will be rendered unenforceable. Under the New Jersey Construction Lien Law (“CLL”), a lien claimant must file a lawsuit seeking to enforce its lien within one year of the date of its last provision of work, services, material, or equipment. This is a strict statutory deadline, which cannot be extended based on equitable circumstances. It is important to note that the deadline is not one year from the date of the filing of the lien claim itself. It is also important to ensure that the work, services, material or equipment, on which you are basing your last date of provision, was actually required to be provided by your contract, as the following case illustrates.
In the recent unpublished decision, WJV Materials, LLC v. Erin Contracting, Inc. (Docket No. A-2453-14T1, August 12, 2016), the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal with prejudice of the claim in a supplier’s complaint seeking to enforce its construction lien claim. The supplier had filed its complaint on May 2, 2014, which was more than one year after it provided its last delivery of materials on April 3, 2013. The supplier attempted to argue that its actual last date of work was May 16, 2013, the date its quality control expert visited the site to review and approve the subcontractor’s work product. The court rejected that argument, as the supplier had been hired solely to provide concrete to the subcontractor at the worksite, which it last did on April 3, and not to unilaterally inspect the work performed with the materials by the subcontractor. There was no evidence in the record that the subcontractor contracted with the supplier to provide any such inspection services. Note that this same issue may arise in connection with your initial filing of a construction lien claim, which, on a commercial project, must be filed within 90 days of your last provision of contracted-for work, services, material or equipment.
Many times after filing and serving a construction lien, the property owner or contractor for whom you worked will seek to immediately resolve your lien claim – or will file its own action to discharge the lien if it believes you filed a defective lien. Often, however, a claimant will file a lien and no immediate action is taken by any party (or the lien is bonded, which still requires you to take timely enforcement action). Filing a timely and valid construction lien claim is difficult enough. Once you do so, it is critical that you not fall asleep at the switch and that you file your enforcement action within the time required by the CLL – that is, within one year of the last date of work, services or materials provided pursuant to your contract.