Mankind has long been fascinated by life’s great mysteries. What happened to Atlantis? Who was Jack the Ripper? Where do all the missing socks go? Why was Stonehenge built?
And who is the property owner on my California construction job?
If you’re in the construction business in the state of California, the first three questions may not have much of an impact on your day-to-day life. But attempting to solve that final mystery – trying to find a California property owner – can be a huge challenge, especially for California-based folks in the construction business that have ‘managing lien rights’ as part of their job description.
The Property Owner – Essential Info, Tough to Find
If you’re a subcontractor, a material supplier, or are in the equipment rental business, by definition, you are a “lower-tiered” participant on a project (see graphic, below left). This means that you probably don’t have a direct relationship with the property owner on the project since there are other participants on the project – such as GC – that exist between you.
Because of this, a lower-tiered participant may not know who the property owner is on some of your projects. This inconvenient truth does nothing to change the fact that, in order to secure your lien rights in California, you almost always have to send a copy of your notices to this mystery party – the property owner.
If you’ve done work outside of California, you may have had some luck finding a property owner through that state’s county assessor websites. You can still gather property information from California assessors, but their reports will typically not list the property owner.
Is this frustrating for someone whose business may depend on knowing this information? Absolutely. Does California do this to make life more difficult for hard working folks in the construction industry? Sometimes it may seem like it, but believe it or not, California lawmakers actually have a pretty good reason for making the property owner information so difficult to find.
California has strong privacy protection laws, including the California Public Records Act, which includes a provision that prohibits government agencies from posting individuals’ information online without written consent. Many California County Assessor websites specifically cite this law as the the reason why they can’t divulge any property ownership information. This helps limit citizens’ exposure to solicitors and scams, so despite any frustration these policies may cause when trying to find project information, you may have benefited from this law as an individual without knowing it.
But back to you – the person we mentioned in the beginning of this article who works in construction in California and has a job description that includes ‘managing lien rights.’ At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “thanks for nothing, California!”
No matter how well-intentioned this legislation may be, you still need to find that property owner so you can send your notices to the right parties and get paid on time. Or more to the point, you still need to do your job, privacy laws be damned!
Good News – Bad News – Good News
Well, we’ve got some news for you:
You can still get property ownership information in California by visiting the county assessor in person and making a public records request (that’s the good news).
Unfortunately, this is not convenient for everyone and requires time that you could be spending honing your craft or building your business. If you’re working outside your normal territory or managing a project remotely, you may not even know which assessor’s office you need to visit (and that’s the bad news).
Fortunately, there’s another option (back to more good news!).
If you manage your lien rights with Levelset, you can have access to a team of researchers – Levelset’s Scout Team – who gather ownership information from several national construction databases in addition to a robust internal data pool the boasts hundreds of thousands of contacts on projects already in our system.
How They Did It With Levelset
Read about how an Insulation Company in California was able to overcome the obstacle of finding essential project information – including the property owner – and is now successfully managing their lien rights.
Finding ownership information should not be an obstacle to getting paid on time. California law can make this a challenge, but you’re not on this quest alone: there is help available from Levelset.