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Can a lien be put on my home for work that took over a year to complete?

CaliforniaLien DeadlinesMechanics LienRight to Lien

I had a second HVAC system installed in my home. I already had the equipment but it was too large for the space so my HVAC contractor said he would swap for a smaller unit and give me credit toward the work to be done. The job was started but took over a year to complete. There were several installation issues that needed to be fixed with 4 additional visits. I have since received a $1200 invoice with incorrect date. Being that it took over a year to complete this job, I requested a detailed invoice to include dates of service, an outline of how the credit was applied and of the work performed. I also requested that they take into account the time it took to complete this job when revising this invoice. The contractor has refused to provide me a revised invoice and is now threatening to put a lien on my home.

1 reply

Jun 4, 2019
I'm sorry hear that this has been such a problem job - even the (seemingly) simplest jobs have a way of going off the rails, sometimes. Let's break this up into two topics: (1) The lien deadline in California (and if/how is that affected by a project that drags on and on); and (2) some other relevant California lien requirements.

First, for those who were hired directly by the property owner, a mechanics lien must be filed after the completion of that direct contract, but before 90 days after completion. If a Notice of Completion or Cessation is filed, this deadline is shortened to a mere 60 days after the notice was filed. Note, though, that a project taking a long time to complete, in and of itself, will not affect the lien deadline. Though, there may be a chance to argue that the project was considered "complete" after a long cessation of work in the project. Under § 8180 of the California Civil Code, a cessation in labor for a continuous period of 60 days will result in a project being considered "complete" - though, if work resumes at some later date, it would likely be hard to argue the project was completed at that time.

Still, there are some other mechanics lien considerations to keep in mind. For one, mechanics lien rights only arise for amounts that are owed and unpaid for work performed. And, in California, the lienable amount is bound to the lesser of: (1) The reasonable value of the work provided by the claimant. (2) The price agreed to by the claimant and the person that contracted for the work. So, if a lien is being threatened for an amount that exceeds what's allowed, it might be worthwhile to inform the prospective lien claimant and to let them know an improperly filed lien would be fought. Further, if a lien is knowingly and willingly exaggerated - that lien might be deemed to have been fraudulently filed, and serious penalties could come into play - and putting a claimant on notice of that can help to keep things fair, as well.

Considering the drastic nature of mechanics lien disputes and their potential outcomes, it might be wise to consult a local construction or real estate attorney - particularly if a lien filing seems imminent. They'll be able to review your circumstances and any documentation and advise on how best to avoid having a lien filed against the property.

Lastly, these resources seem to be relevant and may provide some useful information:
(1) I Just Received a Notice of Intent to Lien – What Should I Do Now?;
(2) Frivolous Mechanics Liens: Intentionally Fraudulent vs. Honest Mistakes; and
(3) Can I File A Lien If My Workmanship Is In Dispute?
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