Blake Robinson | Davis Wright Tremaine | August 8, 2019
Under Oregon law, a contractor or subcontractor must file a construction lien within 75 days “after the person has ceased to provide labor, rent equipment or furnish materials or 75 days after completion of construction, whichever is earlier.” ORS 87.035(1). But when does the 75-day period run when a subcontractor fully completes its work on a project, but is called back months later for additional work?
In a recent case, Bethlehem Construction, Inc. v Portland General Electric Company, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that the 75-day period ran from completion of the additional work. 298 Or App 348, — P3d —- (2019). The court primarily based its conclusion on the fact that the subcontractor performed the additional work under a change order that specifically referenced the original contract.
Accordingly, contractors and subcontractors who are called back to a job to perform additional work and who have not already filed a construction lien should request a change order referring back to the original contract. Likewise, owners should recognize that even if a contractor or subcontractor fails to file a construction lien within 75 days of completion of the original work, the contractor or subcontractor’s lien rights can be revived if the contractor or subcontractor is called back to perform additional work under a change order that refers back to the original contract.
In Bethlehem Construction, PGE hired a general contractor, Abeinsa, for the construction of a power plant. Abeinsa, in turn, subcontracted with Bethlehem Construction. Under the subcontract, Bethlehem agreed to manufacture concrete panels for Abeinsa.
Bethlehem completed its work and issued a final invoice, but did not file a lien within the ensuing 75 days. Around eight months later, Abeinsa requested that Bethlehem return to the project to evaluate damage to the panels caused by a different subcontractor.
Bethlehem and Abeinsa signed a “Change Order Request” listing the original contract number and name in the “reference” field and describing a “scope of change” to the original contract. Bethlehem completed the work and, within 75 days of doing so, recorded a lien covering both the original and change order work.
The Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that Bethlehem’s lien was timely because all of the evidence (specifically, the language in the Change Order Request referring to the original contract) demonstrated that the parties intended the original and subsequent work to be “two parts of one single contract.”
The court also concluded that the later work was not “trivial or trifling”—which was significant because the 75-day deadline to record a lien is not extended by the contractor or subcontractor returning to the project to perform “some trifling work or a few odds and ends after apparently completing the job and removing its equipment.” Here, the later work was not trivial or trifling because the Change Order Request specifically required the work, and the work was “significant to the project.”
- A construction lien must be recorded within the earlier of 75 days of the contractor or subcontractor stopping its work on the project or completion of construction.
- If a contractor or subcontractor completes its work on a project but later is called back to do additional, related work, and it performs that work under a change order that specifically refers back to the original contract, the 75-day period will likely run from the date the later work is completed.
- If the later work is not required by the original contract or a change order, or is not significant to the project, the 75-day period will likely run from the date the original work was completed.