California Mechanics Lien Rules & FAQs

Fact-checked by the Levelset Legal Team
Last updated July 8, 2020
If contractors and suppliers don’t get paid on a construction project in California, they can file a lien to secure payment. A mechanics lien is a legal tool that provides a construction business or laborer with a security interest in the property. This page breaks down the rules, requirements, and deadlines for California mechanics liens.

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Mechanics lien

California lien deadlines for:

Preliminary notice requirements
20 Days
General Contractors in California must serve a preliminary notice on the construction lender (if any) within 20 days of first providing materials or labor. A late notice is only effective for work done in the preceding 20 days. Learn more about California's 20-day preliminary notice.

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Mechanics lien deadline
90 Days
In California, GCs must file a mechanics lien within 90 days from the completion of the project as a whole. However, if a notice of completion or cessation was filed, the deadline is shortened to 60 days from the date such notice was filed.

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Enforcement deadline
90 Days
The deadline to enforce a mechanics lien in California is 90 days after recording the claim. The enforcement deadline can be extended if the owner agrees to extend credit, and the owner and claimant both sign the filed Extension of Credit document.

After an extension, the action to enforce must be commenced within 90 days after the expiration of the credit, but in no case more than 1 year after completion of the work of improvement.

Preliminary notice requirements
20 Days
Subcontractors and suppliers in California must serve a preliminary notice on the owner, prime contractor, and lender (if any) within 20 days of first providing materials or labor. Tardy notice is only effective for work done in the preceding 20 days.

Send Your Notice
Mechanics lien deadline
90 Days
California's deadline to file a mechanics lien is 90 days after the completion of the project as a whole. However, if a notice of completion or cessation was filed, the deadline for subcontractors, suppliers, and other sub-tier parties is shortened to 30 days from the date the notice was filed.

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Enforcement deadline
90 Days
The deadline to enforce a mechanics lien in California is 90 days after recording the claim. The enforcement deadline can be extended if the owner agrees to extend credit, and the owner and claimant both sign the filed Extension of Credit document.

In this instance, the action to enforce must be commenced within 90 days after the expiration of the credit, but in no case more than 1 year after completion of the work of improvement.