Works Of Improvement

Law Talk

Sam K. Abdulaziz & Kenneth S. Grossbart
Attorney at Law

 Snider Lumber Products, Inc. and Sierra Pacific Industries (Snider and Sierra) owned a sawmill in Tuolumne County, which was retooled, and some of the work became unnecessary, including some lumber drying kilns. These huge kilns were bolted on an 80-foot concrete slab, constructed with steel frames, and aluminum walls with foam insulation. When the kilns were installed, they were deemed "improvements” on the land for property tax purposes.

Snider and Sierra hired Midway United to remove the kilns and oversee the sale to a group of buyers. Midway subcontracted the job removal of the kilns to John Stewart Mechanical who entered into a series of contracts with United Rentals to rent the equipment to remove the kilns. John Stewart carried out some of the dismantling of the kilns.

A dispute arose between the parties and United Rentals was removed and a new subcontractor was hired to finish the job. United Rentals was never paid for the rentals and recorded a Mechanic's Lien against Snider and Sierra's land in the amount of $60,602.99.

When United Rental filed its complaint to foreclose on its Mechanic's Lien, Snider and Sierra filed a Motion to remove the Mechanic"s Lien stating that the kilns were personal property. The trial court agreed and ordered the lien removed.

The Appellate court held that the only question was whether the facts of this case gave rise to a Mechanic's Lien in favor of United Rentals under the Civil Code.

Civil Code section 3106 provides that a "work of improvement" includes but is not restricted to construction, alteration, addition to or repair, in whole or in part, of any building, the demotion of buildings, and the removal of buildings and that it means the entire structure or scheme of improvement as a whole.

The Appellate court stated that the removal of the kilns were covered by Civil Code section 3106 since the metal structures were two stories tall, attached to the concrete foundation, enclosed thousands of square feet of space, had windows and doors and staircases, etc. There was no doubt they were buildings.

It is a general understanding that a work of improvement results in the permanent improvement and can give rise to a Mechanic's Lien.

Therefore, the requirement of removing the lien and judgment in favor of Snider and Sierra was reversed, the case was sent back to the lower court and United Rentals was awarded its costs.