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Construction Law

: The South Carolina Construction Law Blog

No Mechanic's Lien on Property for Which Materials Have Been Fabricated but Not Delivered

By Ryan McCabe

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            The South Carolina Code provides: ?A person to whom a debt is due for ? materials furnished and actually used in the erection, alteration or repair of a building ? by virtue of an agreement with ? the owner ? shall have a lien upon the building ?.? S.C. Code Ann. Section 29-5-10(a) (Emphasis Added).

            In Wardlaw v. Troy Oil Mill, 54 S.E. 658 (S.C. 1906) a brick manufacturer sold brick to Troy Oil Mill Company to build a cotton seed oil mill. Troy Oil Mill used some of the brick and sold the rest. When the brick manufacturer filed a mechanic?s lien for the unpaid balance, it claimed that the sum for all the brick sold was to be secured by the lien. The lower court agreed, despite objections by another creditor that the lien was valid only for the brick actually used in the erection of the mill. South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the lower court?s decision, finding no reason to ?extend the statute beyond its plain words.? In Skiba v. Gessner, 648 S.E.2d 605, 607 (S.C. 2007), the Supreme Court restated: ?We are not at liberty to depart from the plain meaning of the mechanic lien?s statutory language.? In Skiba, work in preparation for landscaping, rather than for the erection, alteration or repair of a building, was found not to be covered by the lien.

            Interestingly, in 1990 the South Carolina Court of Appeals interpreted the statute broadly. In A.V.A. Constr. Corp. v. Santee Wando Const., 400 S.E.2d 498 (S.C. App. 1990), the owner moved to dismiss the contractor?s action to foreclose a mechanic?s lien. The owner alleged that the contractor only completed paved roads, curbs, sewer, and a tennis court, all of which were not contemplated by the mechanic?s lien statute. The court, however, disagreed and stated that over the years there has been a tendency to liberalize the mechanic?s lien statute. It found that the tennis court, roads, gutters, and drainage made the lots usable to build structures and were subject to the mechanic?s lien. The court, therefore, broadened the statute beyond the materials used for the building or structure alone. Nevertheless, the court still limited the lien to materials that were actually used.

            South Carolina law, therefore, does not allow a mechanic?s lien over materials that have not actually been used in construction.

            This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek a competent attorney for advice on any legal matter.

Full post as published by The South Carolina Construction Law Blog on January 21, 2009 (boomark / email).

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