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Can a contractor place a lien on my house after sending preliminary notice 7 months after project completetion?

CaliforniaMechanics LienRight to Lien

I received a preliminary notice sent to me by regular mail and not recorded 7 months later by my contractor with a higher amount never disclosed prior and for incomplete work. I paid the subcontractors provided by contractor directly as requested. The contractor didn't have a signed contract with me (estimate was provided in text message) and disappeared after his subcontractors messed up my walls and I ended up hiring other contractors to fix everything. I asked him to send his drywall guy back to fix the issues and he told me to hire someone else. Contractor never came back to check on his work that was left incomplete or pick up his dirty cloths. He delivered undone, unprofessional work leaving me to deal with all the mess and damage myself.

1 reply

Aug 15, 2018
That's a good question, and it's one we handle a lot on the blog. Before answering the heart of the question, it's important to note that regardless of whether a claimant has followed all necessary notice and timing requirements, a lien filing might still occur. County recorder offices typically have neither the bandwidth nor the authority to scrutinize each lien claim submitted for recording. However, mechanics liens have strict requirements - and failing to meet those requirements can invalidate a lien claim, and in some circumstances, result in a fraudulent lien. Mechanics lien have a strict filing deadline. In California, all lien claimants will typically be required to file their lien well before 7 months after the completion of the project. A direct contractor must record his Claim of Lien after completion of the direct contract, and before the earlier of either 90 days after completion of the work of improvement; or 60 days after the owner records a Notice of Completion or Cessation. A claimant other than a direct contractor must record his mechanics lien after the claimant ceases to provide work, and before the earlier of either: 90 days after completion of the work of improvement; or, 30 days after the owner records a Notice of Completion or Cessation. These deadlines are strict, and filing even one day late can result in an invalid claim. Further, under § 8412 of the California Civil Code, a direct contractor cannot even enforce their lien until "after the contractor completes the direct contract, and before the earlier of the following times: (a) Ninety days after completion of the work of improvement. (b) Sixty days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation." As for the amount of a filed lien, California is strict about that, too. A claimant's lien is limited to the reasonable value of the work provided by the claimant, or to the price agreed to by the claimant and the person who contracted for the work (minus payments already received). A lien filed for an excessive amount may also result in an invalid mechanics lien, and potentially a fraudulent lien. If no mechanics lien has been filed and a party has merely threatened to file a mechanics lien, informing them that such lien filing would be improper and potentially even fraudulent can go a long way to fend off potential lien claims. Further, doing so via a letter from an attorney can provide a little extra "umph". But, once a lien filing has truly become imminent (or after a lien filing has occurred), consulting a local construction attorney familiar with real estate and construction law might be a good idea. They will be able to review all relevant information, communication, and documentation to gain better insight into the dispute and provide advice on how to move forward. This article may be helpful too: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
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