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Calculating the 45 Day Construction Lien Period: When a Lien Period Can Extend Beyond 45 Days
Posted on: October 1st, 2016 by

Court Holds 45 Day Lien Period Can Be Met Despite Subcontractor Not Being on Site For More than 45 Days Due to Scheduled Winter Shut Down.

What happens to a subcontractor’s 45 day lien rights when the work on site is interrupted due to a scheduled winter shut down? This is the issue Mr. Justice DiTomaso decided on July 9, 2016, in Toronto Zenith Contracting Limited v. Fermar Paving Limited, 2016 ONSC 4696.

The facts were straightforward.  Fermar was the general contractor on a major road construction project. It subcontracted some of the work to Zenith.  The subcontract contemplated three winter shutdowns with Zenith thereafter returning to the site to recommence its subcontract work. Zenith started its work in 2013.  The project went through the first winter shutdown. Zenith recommenced its work and worked on site until December 19, 2014, at which time the second winter shutdown began. During the second winter shut down, Zenith performed offsite work intended to become part of the improvement of the Project, in that it prepared and submitted shop drawings, and certain materials were fabricated and picked up by Fermar in February 2015 for the site. Furthermore, Zenith’s temporary shoring system was left in place on site during the winter shut down period and Zenith’s concrete forms installed before the winter shut down were used by Fermar to pour concrete after the winter shut down.

As a result of a dispute over delays and payment, Zenith issued a notice of termination of subcontract on February 6, 2015, and registered a construction lien on March 18, 2015.

Fermar contest the timeliness of registration of the lien, on the basis that the last day of work on the site was December 19, 2015, and, as such, Zenith registered its lien outside the 45 day lien period.

Mr. Justice DiTomaso rejected Fermar’s position and held that Zenith’s lien was registered within 45 days of “the date on which the person last supplied services or materials to the improvement”.  In particular, Mr. Justice DiTomaso accepted Zenith’s contention that:

…Fermar’s submission regarding the timeliness of Toronto Zenith’s lien makes no practical or commercial sense.  It would require parties to register claims for liens within 45 days of the date of their last supply of material or labour whenever a construction project was shut down for a significant period of time (whether it by weather, stop work order, scheduling issues or coordination requirements) even though the contractor, subcontractor or material supplier knew that there was ongoing progressive work or substantial quantities of material to be supplied or delivered as required at a later date.

His Honour ultimately concluded that Zenith’s lien had not expired, and was for a lienable supply of services and materials, given that the subcontract contemplated scheduled winter shutdowns, and the extent of offsite activity being performed during the winter shutdown for the Project.

The practical effect of this decision is that a contractor’s lien rights will be kept alive during a scheduled shut down that is longer than 45 days if the contractor continues to perform off site services for the Project during that shut down.  The more interesting question is what will the Court say about a contractor’s lien rights if the nature of the Project is that no off site work is required during the scheduled shut down.

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