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California, our contractor did not complete finishing work, he says he has filed lien

CaliforniaLawsuitMechanics LienPayment Disputes

contractor claims he finished work. he has not. he now put a lien on house and is filing small claims. another contractor said work is in code violation for electrical work he performed.

1 reply

Jan 31, 2018
In California, a "direct contractor may not enforce a lien unless the contractor records a claim of lien after the contractor completes the direct contract," and before the lien filing deadline of the earlier of "(a) Ninety days after completion of the work of improvement; or (b) Sixty days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation." If the contractor has not completed the project, the contractor is unable to file a valid and enforceable lien.

Additionally, there are other requirements necessary in order for the lien to be enforceable, including that: the contractor must have sent a preliminary notice to the construction lender, if there was one; and, the lien form itself must be in the proper form, and must have been filed and served properly.

Note, however, that these requirements relate to the validity & enforceability of a lien - not the ability of a contractor to file the lien to begin with. County recorders rarely (and generally shouldn't) act as gatekeepers for the purposes of determining whether a lien is proper, and accordingly, "bad" liens get filed with regularity. Also note, that workmanship disputes generally don't impact a contractor's ability to file a valid or enforceable lien, but only affect the proper value of the disputed work.

Mechanics liens cannot be enforced in small claims court - so there are a couple potential actions for you to deal with. The lien can be challenged, and to the extent it is improper, the lien claimant can be subject to damages incurred by the property owner with respect to the improper lien filing. A letter demanding the release of an improper lien that makes mention of that fact can be effective in getting an unenforceable lien released. It may also be effective in getting the small claims case dropped, depending on the amount of the dispute. Whether there is any amount due for the disputed work is beyond the scope of this question.
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