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Can a homeowner sue me as the sub-contractor for giving them a Notice of Intent to Lien due to the contractor not paying me?

CaliforniaRight to Lien

I am a sub-contractor for a retail store. The home owner purchased plantation shutters through the designer and my company manufactured them. I do not have a contract with the homeowner. My business was done solely with the designer/retail store. After two months of completing the job, the designer did not pay me. I filed a Notice of Intent and sent it to both homeowner and designer. The homeowner contact me and accused me of fraud because she said she had paid for the product via the designer. I explained to her that I had to send the letter to both her as the homeowner and the designer. She then threaten to sue me. Can she do that?

1 reply

Aug 20, 2018
I'm sorry to hear you've gone unpaid. First, it should be noted that an owner could certainly file a lawsuit - an individual can file a lawsuit for pretty much anything. However, it would be incredibly hard for a homeowner to argue that they're owed any damages when nothing has been filed against their property. In California, a Notice of Intent to Lien is not a required document. Rather, it's a voluntary document that informs the owner that a lien will be filed if payment is not made. Further, even if a lien is filed, an owner will have a hard time alleging that a claimant has acted fraudulently - especially when the claimant has documentation to prove that they are owed and unpaid based on work performed. Informing a property owner that 1. A lien might be filed by subcontractors and suppliers, and 2. No lien has yet been filed, might go a long way to diffuse the situation. Further, mentioning to them that a direct contractor is required to defend an owner from a subcontractor's lien (under § 8470 of the California Civil Code) could help smooth things over somewhat while also putting more pressure on the non-paying party. Ultimately, though, filing a mechanics lien is the right of the lien claimant (when all proper notices and requirements are followed). No owner wants a lien filed on their property, and no one even wants to file a lien. But lien rights exist for a reason - to protect claimants from going unpaid. Reminding an owner that this problem arose because of their direct contractor's actions should help toward getting the dispute resolved.
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