Enforcing a Mechanic’s Lien With Ambiguous Drawings or Specifications
Everyone logically wants to maximize their chances to claim the full amount owed in a possible mechanics lien. Especially as to larger commercial projects, the prospect of working with ambiguous drawings or specifications is very real. Unfortunately, many contractors do not alert the owner or design professionals in the bidding process and defer it to another day. This is the worst mistake you can make because it will directly impact your right to file mechanic’s lien if a dispute later occurs. Get it resolved in the beginning and eliminate any such potential mechanics lien issues.
We must not forget that in the beginning of the project everybody loves each other and the channels of communication are open. Actually, the project architect or engineer might encourage input. If done non-offensively, they might greet requests for clarification with gratitude.
The alternative is to get going on the project and when you reach the point in which you have to address the issue, send out a Request For Information (RFI). But this takes time to review and the project architect will do everything in his or her power to make sure it doesn’t result in additional costs and in many cases will deny even a reasonable request. That person is typically defensive at that stage. And worse, their interpretation frequently requires additional work without signing a change order. If your profit and overhead is slim on the job, this digs directly into your cash flow. The potential of filing a mechanic’s lien is in jeopardy.
Suggested Clause: To protect yourself, consider using the following clause:
“The contractor shall not be responsible for ambiguities in drawings or specifications prepared by others. Contractor’s bid covers all necessary labor, materials, and equipment based upon a reasonable interpretation of such drawings and specifications. Any alterations or deviations from the drawings, or changes directed by the architect or engineer (who will not be considered the final arbiter of disputes), will result in extra compensation.”