Court Finds That Contractor Demonstrated Good Cause to Allow Extension of Mechanic’s Lien Nunc Pro Tunc

The Nassau County Supreme Court recently held that a contractor demonstrated good cause allowing the Court to extend the contractor’s mechanic’s lien nunc pro tunc.

The action was initially commenced by the property owner, who sought an order pursuant to Lien Law Section 19 discharging and vacating a mechanic’s lien filed by All Sons Electric Corp. (“All Sons”) against a single family residence on the ground that the mechanic’s lien expired by operation of law.  Pursuant to Section 17 of the Lien Law, a mechanic’s lien automatically expires one year after filing unless (i) an extension is filed with the County Clerk or (ii) an action is commenced to foreclose the lien and a notice of pendency is filed.  Section 17 further provides that a lien filed against a single family dwelling may only be extended by court order.  Here, All Sons filed an extension of lien and paid the appropriate fee within the one year time period, but failed to obtain a court order authorizing the extension.

In response to the owner’s application to discharge the lien, All Sons cross-moved for leave to file its extension of lien nunc pro tunc.  The Court, recognizing that a lien automatically expires by operation of law if an extension is not timely filed or a foreclosure action commenced, focused on the fact that All Sons had filed an extension with the County Clerk within the one year period.  This distinguished All Sons’ situation from that presented in the case relied on by the owner, wherein the contractor failed to do anything within the one year period (see Aztec Window & Door Mfg., Inc. v. 71 Vill. Rd., LLC, 60 A.D.3d 795, 875 N.Y.S.2d 528 (2nd Dept. 2009)).

In contrast, the Court found All Sons’ citation to Navillus Tile, Inc. v. LC Main, LLC, 98 A.D.3d 979, 950 N.Y.S.2d 748 (2nd Dept. 2012) persuasive, where the Second Department granted a contractor’s ex-parte application for an extension of a mechanic’s lien nunc pro tunc that was timely filed with the Court, but not received by a judge for signature until after the expiration date of the lien.  The Navillus court held that “[n]othing in the text of Lien Law S 17 prohibits the granting of an application for an extension of the term of a lien where the application is timely filed but not presented to a judge or justice until after the expiration date.”  950 N.Y.S.2d at 750.

In addition to the Navillus case, the Court stated that it had authority under CPLR 2004 and common law to extend the time fixed by Lien Law Section 17 “as may be just and upon good cause shown” (citing CPLR 2004).

The Court found that All Sons had demonstrated good cause because it had filed an extension and paid the requisite fee before the lien expired, and a court order extending the lien would normally be routinely granted if it had been timely filed.  The Court also noted that there was no prejudice to the owner.  Thus, the Court granted All Sons’ cross-motion and ordered that the previously filed lien was extended nunc pro tunc as of the date the extension was initially filed with the County Clerk.