With Vancouver repeatedly being touted as one of the world’s most livable cities year after year, it is no surprise that the real estate market over the last several years has experienced tremendous growth, with not only the price of real estate increasing, but also the volume of real estate construction projects.

Think of a construction project like a pyramid, with the property owner at the top. The owner will hire a contractor; contractors often hire subcontractors (who themselves may further sub-contract); and subcontractors may hire workers. Given the number of people involved in a construction project, it is not unusual for performance and payment disputes to arise.

If a contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, engineer, architect or worker, has not been paid for work done, the Builders Lien Act (British Columbia) provides a number of remedies to secure the right to be paid. The most frequently used remedy in the Builders Lien Act is the filing of a ‘builders lien’. A builders lien registers a charge against the property, upon which work was performed, for the amount that is outstanding. This often means that the property cannot be sold until the filing party has been paid. However, builders liens do not prove a claim and, in some cases, an application will have to be made to court to wither enforce or dispute the lien. In many cases though, the registration of a builders lien is enough to get the account paid without having to resort to court proceedings.

The Builders Lien Act provides strict rules for filing a lien, including the requirement that the lien is filed within 45 days of the “triggering event”. There are a number of complex ways in which the “triggering event” is calculated and mistakes in following the rules can result in the lien being declared unenforceable.

It is important that when builders lien issues arise, whether you are a landowner, contractor, subcontractor or worker, that you seek the prompt advice and expertise of lawyers experienced in dealing this these complex matters, e.g. in instances in which a lien has been improperly placed on a property to have it removed.