Construction Liens
Construction Liens
News + Views + Events
Helpful Links
Client Stories

At Field Law, our comprehensive knowledge of the Prompt Payment and Construction Lien Act is what sets us apart. This legislation is complicated, and our team is experienced with not only the registration of liens, but in litigating construction liens, whether it be proving the validity of and enforcing a lien or assisting clients in disputing liens registered against a project and holding up funding.

We have extensive experience in registering liens at Land Titles, as well as liens registered against mineral leases or other agreements at the Minister of Energy. We provide advice and assistance as to the most effective and efficient ways to deal with liens in order to maintain required cash flow while preserving statutory lien rights.

We are pleased to answer any questions and provide assistance regarding any aspect of the construction lien process, including issues such as, who has the ability to file liens, what lands can be liened, when the lien period commences, what steps are required to preserve a lien once it is registered, taking or forcing action on a lien, or removing wrongfully registered liens from title. Whatever the situation, our lawyers are well equipped to assist you with any construction lien problems that arise.

Golden Triangle Construction Management Inc v Nuwest Interior Systems Inc, 2019 ABQB 292
May 2024 - 5 min read
Constructing Confidence: The Adequacy of Letters of Credit in Lien Security
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
TruGrp Inc. v. Karmina Holdings Inc. addresses the adequacy of letters of credit as security to vacate a lien. Concerns were raised about the enforceability of a bank’s letter of credit due to specific language that might render ...
April 2024 - 5 min read
When Is a Lien For Design Work Valid?
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
When determining whether a party has performed or provided work "in relation to an improvement", BC courts will not stray from the rule that, without any physical demolition or construction work having begun, pre-construction...
January 2024 - 4 min read
Construction Liens: Resolving Costs in Default Actions
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
In a construction lien dispute, Alfa Mechanical filed a motion for default judgment against the Changs over a Toronto property lien. The parties set aside the default noting but disagreed on costs. The court awarded Alfa expenses for t...
December 2023 - 5 min read
How Much is Too Much: Extraordinary Remedies for Excessive Liens
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
Determining the proper amount of a construction lien routinely arises in construction law proceedings. In certain circumstances, there may be no basis to support an excessive lien amount, which could ultimately bring the matter be...
November 2023
Construction Lien Dilemma: Landlord Liability in Tenant-Driven Renovations
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
A contractor may register a construction lien on a property to obtain payment for their unpaid services or materials. While registering liens is generally straightforward, complexities arise when the property's fee simple registere...
September 2023
Legal Notes: Correct names on Both Contracts and Liens can Save Headaches
Daily Commercial News
August 2023 - 4 min read
Substantial Indemnity Costs in the Context of Liens
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
Parties to construction contracts should be attentive to the potential for substantial indemnity costs in lien proceedings, recognizing the significance of recoverable litigation costs. The courts have the authority to award costs on...
July 2023 - 6 min read
Lien Bonds Are as Good as Cash
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
The Manitoba Court of Appeal reversed a chambers Justice's decision which held that a lien bond was not as good as cash for vacating liens on a Crown project. In doing so, the Court of Appeal noted that in situations where neither ...
July 2023 - 4 min read
Determining Validity of Contractor Claim of Lien
Constructive Thoughts Newsletter
Understanding engagement relationships and responsibilities regarding subcontractors is crucial for construction company owners. A recent decision ruled that a lien was valid, even though the property owners were unaware of the subco...
April 2023 - 3 min read
Immovable Security: Lien Eligibility for Mobile Structures
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirmed that portable classrooms are characterized as "improvements" and are therefore eligible for a lien under the Ontario Construction Act. The same conclusion would like...
April 2022 - 3 min read
Priority of Lien Claims in a Post-Redwater World
The Supreme Court of Canada's Redwater decision concluded that provincial end-of-life abandonment and reclamation obligations, which are not claims provable in bankruptcy, must still be satisfied by a bankrupt estate, regardless of a...
February 2022  - 3 min read
Which Parties Must Be Sued to Enforce a Builders’ Lien?
Builders’ liens are a common tool for unpaid parties on a construction project to try to secure payment for their work. But simply registering a lien is not enough to perfect a lien claim.In Alberta, a Statement of Claim and Certificate of Lis Pe...
January 2022 - 4 min read
Discharging a Builders' Lien: Is Cash King?
Posting either a lien bond or cash as security to discharge a builders' lien is standard practice in Alberta. Seemingly, this is because the lien claimant is not prejudiced by the posting of one form of security over the other.  But is a ...
October 2021 - 4 min read
Untangling a Web of Lien Claims
Builders’ liens on condominium projects are commonplace. The large scope of work required and the lack of surety bonding often leaves unpaid subcontractors or suppliers with little recourse in the event of non-payment. In Avli BRC Developments In...
September 2021 - 3 min read
Registering Builders’ Liens: When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
The Builders’ Lien Act (“BLA”) sets out deadlines for registering builders’ liens. However, determining if a lien has been registered out of time can be tricky. Whether the work performed by a contractor or subcontract...
May 2021 - 3 min read
Builders’ Liens: Where does the Lien Line Lie?
The line between what work gives rise to a valid builders’ lien, and that which doesn’t, can be blurry. The recent decision of YoungEnergyServe Inc. v LR Ltd, LR Processing Partnership, 2021 ABQB 101, has set out a framework for determining...
May 2021 - 4 min read
Constructing the Right Adjudication System for Alberta
How construction adjudication is developing across other Canadian provinces and what Alberta can expect.Later in 2021, Alberta will be implementing changes to the Builders’ Lien Act, including renaming it as the Prompt Payment and Constructi...
April 2021
Canadian Treatment of Construction and Builders Liens On Crown Lands
Author: Anthony Burden
October 2020 - 3 min read
Prompt Payment in Alberta: One Big Step Closer
On October 21, 2020, Bill 37: Builders’ Lien (Prompt Payment) Amendment Act, 2020 passed First Reading in the Alberta Legislature. Bill 37 would introduce significant changes to the Alberta Builders’ Lien Act, particularly by introducing st...
March 2020
Construction Claims and COVID-19: What is Still Available?
The status of what businesses can remain open, in what capacity, and with access to whom, is ever-changing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For ongoing construction projects, or those for which a party has recently performed work, ...
October 2019 - 2 min read
Think Leaving Equipment On Site Extends Your Lien Period? Think Again.
Builders’ liens provide unpaid contractors and subcontractors on a construction project the ability to secure a debt claim against a piece of land. While courts have acknowledged that the purpose of builders’ liens is to prov...
May 2019
What’s Old is New Again – Municipal Reserve Lands in Alberta Cannot be Liened
Builders’ liens are a useful tool for unpaid contractors and subcontractors on a construction project. They provide a right to make a claim and register an instrument against title to a parcel of land, with the ultimate remedy being a sale of tho...
January 2019
Tick-Tock Goes the Lien Clock
Builders’ liens are an important tool, providing contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers security for unpaid work. The template s.48 Order requires a lien claimant to file a Statement of Claim within 180 days of registering the lien; however, ...
January 2018
Contractor Know Thyself: If You Don’t, You May Lose Your Lien
Builders' liens are "creatures of statute". A builders' lien is a new right created by lien legislation that would not otherwise exist at common law.  As such, a lien claimant must bring itself strictly within the statutory frame...
January 2018
Fatal Errors: The Small Mistakes That Can Have a Big Impact On Your Lien Claim
The scenario is a fairly common one: a contractor doesn’t get paid, and then proceeds to register a lien on a project, only to later discover a mistake in the Statement of Lien. It could be a typo in the name of the Owner; or it could be a failur...

Holdbacks are the process by which owners of land can limit their exposure on a secured lien. The 10% holdbacks kept by the owners (or contractors) are the first part of the  lien fund. The second part of the lien fund is work that has been done on the property but has not yet been paid for (ie. amounts owing). The lien fund can ultimately be paid into court to discharge liens from the owners property, and thereby avoid collection proceedings taken against the land.

The problem arises when payment is made to the contractor, who does not pay his subcontractors. In such a case, the subcontractors may file liens against the owners’ property, despite the fact that payment has been made to the contractor. In such cases, the owners' liability is limited to 10% of the value of the work done plus any amounts unpaid. If at the time the owner made payment to the general contractor there were no liens registered, then that payment will serve  to reduce the lien fund. If there were liens registered, the payment will not reduce the lien fund. Hence, no payment should be made by the owners on any contract when there are construction liens on title.

Construction Lien Precedent

Anthony Burden's client was the general contractor for two school construction projects in Alberta. Several construction liens were registered by various sub-contractors, creating additional expense for our client. The schools in question were designated as “municipal reserve” lands, which impacts what use can be made of the lands on sale.

Previous case law indicated that such lands could not be subject to forced sale and therefore construction liens on those lands were unenforceable.

Anthony advised his client not to make the payments on these liens. Instead, he recommended arguing that all construction liens registered on both projects were invalid - setting a precedent for future work. Several liens were withdrawn by consent as a result of our approach.

During this process, three lienholders disputed our interpretation, and a contested Court application was held to determine if these liens were valid. The Court accepted our interpretation of the law and held that the construction liens, in this case, were invalid.

The Court decision provided certainty to our client for this project and in the future that any lands designated as “municipal reserve” cannot be validly liened.