Do I Need to Send a Pre-Lien Notice?
New Supreme Court Case

William O. Kessler, Edmonds Lawyer

Contractors must follow a slew of statutory requirements to file and collect upon their various liens. One such requirement is the pre-lien notice. Certain subcontractors must send notice to property owners prior to the start of the project. Essentially, the pre-lien notice says, “Dear homeowners, I may not be contracted with you directly, but I am working on this project, I expect to get paid by my general, and if I do not, I may lien your property.”

Generally, RCW 60.04 requires pre-lien notices for providers of professional services, materials, or equipment; however, the statute does not require such pre-lien notice for a labor lien. Recently, in Velasquez Framing, the Washington State Supreme Court confirmed as much. See Velazquez Framing, LLC v. Cascadia Homes, Inc., No. 101591-7, 2024 WL 118484 at *1 (Wash. Jan. 11, 2024). Importantly, Velasquez Framing raised an additional issue: whether a claimant who provides materials, equipment or professional services in addition to labor may lien for their labor despite not having provided prelien notice?

Velasquez Framing v. Cascadia Homes – Holding

The Court found that “where a claimant liens for both labor and material without providing pre-lien notice, the claimant may enforce that portion relating to labor so long as the court has an evidentiary basis to segregate the value of the labor for from [equipment, professional services and/or] materials.”

Velasquez Framing v. Cascadia Homes – Impact

This means that a claimant need not provide a pre-lien notice with respect to its subsequently claimed lien for both labor and materials. Rather, the claimant may revisit their lien after the work is done to determine what amount to allocate to labor and what amount to allocate to materials. Without providing a pre-lien notice, the claimant will sacrifice the amount allocated to materials but may still enforce a lien for the amount allocated to labor. This permissive after-the-fact segregation and allocation of the lien likely creates additional settlement leverage for contractors who file liens.

While the filing of a pre-lien notice segregating labor and materials remains best practice, some contractors may use the Velasquez holding to leverage property owners into quick settlement. For example, say a contractor, without providing a pre-lien notice, performs $100k worth of work on a property (including both labor and materials). The contractor need not segregate the value of its labor from its materials at the onset.

Instead, the contractor could potentially: (1) file its lien after the work is done for the full $100k amount; (2) withhold information regarding the segregation of its lien from the property owner until the discovery phase of litigation (assuming it even gets there); and (3) leverage the full amount of the $100k claimed lien (or close to it) in order to obtain a settlement figure higher than what it would’ve likely received under its lone enforceable lien for labor (because its lien for materials would be unenforceable without the pre-lien notice).

Even though the amount with respect to the materials lien is unenforceable, the property owner in this scenario would not know the segregated lien amount until litigation. But litigation is unlikely because attorneys could leverage the property owner’s settlement through the fee-shifting provision of RCW 60.04.


The foregoing example illustrates the practical effect of the Velasquez holding. This leverage granted to contractors may be compounded through the contactor’s attorneys utilizing the statutory attorneys’ fee provision to influence property owners to settle for the full lien amount (including both labor and materials) even though, in litigation, the property owner would only be responsible for the segregated amount regarding labor.

To learn more about these issues and/or navigate the ever changing landscape of contractor’s lien law, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

BERESFORD BOOTH has made this content available to the general public for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not intended to convey legal opinions or legal advice.