Can an unlicensed Handyman in California issue a mechanics lien

1 year ago

I am an unlicensed handyman doing work in California. I was hired by the homeowner to help fix his house after flood damage. I have issued him $8000 in invoices he claims he can’t pay me pay me because one of his accounts is frozen because of identity theft. This is a false statement since I’ve had identity theft and got it resolved quickly he’s been complaining about this ID theft for over three months. Can I issue him an intent to lien or and a mechanics lien for the money he owes me?

Chief Legal Officer Levelset

I’m sorry that you have found yourself in this situation, it’s always frustrating to be out money that you have earned and deserve. I’ll try to provide some helpful information.

California is exceptionally strict regarding licensing requirements and the ability of unpaid construction participants to recover money owed. If a license is required for the work performed, an unlicensed contractor NOT ONLY cannot file a valid mechanics lien, but s/he also cannot file suit to recover, either. In California, unlicensed contractors are not entitled to be paid – period – for anything, and will be thrown out of court if they sue to get paid. Additionally, note that contracting without a license is a misdemeanor crime.

“Handyman” work is an exception to the license requirement – and a handyman laborer may be able to file a lien if unlicensed. However, there are very strict requirements for what qualifies as handyman work. Of specific importance is that California law states that an unlicensed handyman cannot charge more than $500 for a job. This pay includes both labor and cost of materials, and is not increased if more than one task is undertaken at the same time.

Finally, there are also strict timing requirements, and a mechanics lien in California. A mechanics lien for somebody who contracted directly with the property owner must be filed within 90 days from the end of the job.

I hope you are able to find a way to get paid.


Our unlicensed contractor filed a mechanics lien on us. How do we get it removed? What do we do?

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