Menu
Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>A verbal contract for plumbing was agreed in July and started in July and the project was abandoned by the plumber in July. I received a preliminary notice in December from the original plumber. Is this legal?

A verbal contract for plumbing was agreed in July and started in July and the project was abandoned by the plumber in July. I received a preliminary notice in December from the original plumber. Is this legal?

CaliforniaPreliminary NoticeRight to Lien

We hired a plumber with a verbal contract to re-pipe a master bathroom in July. The contractor had issues with special order fittings and delays, after 4 weeks we had a tile contractor complete the needed plumbing after discovering the shower valve was installed upside down. In August the original plumber presented me with two bills, labor($600.00) and materials ($488.00) with no details offered. I explained the situation to him and he was insistent on receiving at least the materials invoice to which I paid and asked for a new invoices showing the details of the materials and how many hours were worked and the amount per hour. To date I have no invoice from the contractor for this project. Dec 7th we received a Preliminary notice dated December 6th showing a total amount due of $1088.00. I do not wish to have any additional communication with this individual. I have a history of text messages from the plumber to me to back up my time lines of communication and start date. Chuck Ward

1 reply

Dec 10, 2018
While it's not "illegal" to send a preliminary notice to pretty much anybody at pretty much any time, the real question that matters is whether a (late) preliminary notice is effective, or has any impact on the property or payment.

In California, all parties other than wage laborers (the employees of a contractor or subcontractor) must provide a preliminary notice in order to retain lien rights. In order to protect the full amount of the labor and material furnished, the preliminary must be sent within 20 days from the date the potential claimant first furnished labor or materials to the project. Notice may be sent later, but the notice is only effective to protect the labor or materials furnished beginning 20 days prior to the date the notice was sent.

Additionally, California has very strict licensing requirements. If a contractor is not licensed to do the work performed, not only is the contractor not allowed to file a valid mechanics lien, but the contractor may not recover any amount claimed to be due through a lawsuit, either, and may be forced to pay back any amounts actually paid.

Even with all of that said, however, a lack of ability to file a valid lien doesn't necessarily mean that a claimant will not be successful in getting a lien filed and in the property records (even if the lien is ultimately worthless in terms of being enforceable). County recorders usually do not work as gatekeepers for the validity of liens, and improper liens may be filed. In that event, however, a slander of title action may be initiated by the property owner to have the lien removed and to recover damages and attorneys' fees from the improper claimant.
0 likes

Add your answer or comment

Not the answer you were looking for? Check out other Preliminary Notice topics or ask your own question