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UPDATE 4/8/2014 9:45 a.m.: The Committee voted yesterday, April 7, 2014, to embrace only the second of the three recommendations discussed in my original blog post below. I have struck through the recommendations that did not survive the final draft of the report, which is now in the hands of the Legislative Research Commission for further action. Many thanks to Raleigh construction attorneys Jason Herndon and Brian Schoolman for alerting me to the Committee’s vote, as a trip out-of-state prevented my attendance at yesterday’s meeting.
The Legislative Research Committee charged with studying the lien rights of contractors and materialmen on tenant improvement projects meets a week from today, on April 7, 2014, to vote on a series of recommendations to the 2014 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly. The Committee’s recommendations can be found in its recently released draft report.
North Carolina’s House Committee on Mechanics’ Liens and Leasehold Improvements gathered for the third of four scheduled meetings last Friday, March 7. Up for discussion were two legislative proposals: one that would strengthen liens on leaseholds, and one with the potential to weaken the “direct liability” or “wrongful payment” liens of subcontractors and suppliers.
Progress was made on both proposals, but with the Committee scheduled to meet for the last time and issue its recommendations on April 7, the clock is ticking on what might be accomplished during the legislative short session convening in May.
Here’s what you need to know about where things stand and what happens next:
UPDATE 3/11/14 7:00 p.m. I just received word that the N.C. Land Title Association believes it needs more time to explain to other construction industry stakeholders the concerns giving rise to its legislative proposals. As a result, NCLTA has decided not to pursue its current proposals as part of the legislative study committee’s recommendations for legislation during the upcoming short session. NCLTA will seek to discuss its concerns with interested stakeholders over the next few months in the hope of reaching a consensus on solutions that can be recommended as legislation during the 2015 long session. In the interim, I am leaving this post up for informational purposes only.
With apologies to Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Like in 2012, when the N.C. Land Title Association (“NCLTA”) successfully guided lien agent legislation through the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session, the organization is once again promoting a policy proposal widely opposed by the contracting community in advance of the Legislature’s May reconvening for its abbreviated 2014 get-together.
This time, the NCLTA has the Claim of Lien Upon Funds in its sights.
Here’s what you need to know:
The House Committee on Mechanics’ Liens and Leasehold Improvements of the N.C. General Assembly reconvenes at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, March 3. Now that the Committee has spent its first two of four meetings considering the pros and cons of potential legislative action, the expectation is that its members will turn their focus to considering actual legislative proposals next week.
Contractors and suppliers are likely to push for legislation extending liens on leaseholds to the underlying “fee simple” ownership interest of landlords in virtually all circumstances, while commercial realty and banking interests are likely to ask the General Assembly to do nothing. You can read more about these polar opposite approaches in my previous liens-on-leasehold blog posts here and here, respectively; a white paper from the N.C. Subcontractors Alliance, Inc., embracing an expansive approach to contractor protection, can be found here.
Between these poles, might a middle ground be found?
In the second of four meetings, the House Committee on Mechanics’ Liens and Leasehold Improvements of the North Carolina General Assembly heard from representatives of the banking and commercial real estate industries on Monday, February 3. Both representatives spoke forcefully against extending liens for tenant improvements to the record owner’s underlying interest in the leased property improved. (For context, you can find my coverage of the committee’s initial meeting here).