Can I file a lien for the General Contractor not willing to pay remaining balance of a project?

7 months ago

We completed roofing work at a project in Yorba Linda in September 2019. We received a partial payment because the General Contractor believed we should install something differently. We returned to fix it and sent a bill for the remaining balance on December 9th, 2019. At this point, the General Contractor is refusing to pay us until after the project has passed final inspection. He has not scheduled the inspection yet and claims that they will not allow him to do so until mid January. I filed a 20 day notice in September, and sent an intent to file a lien today. I am wondering if we are able to file the lien though with these circumstances.

I asked the General Contractor to compromise by sending a payment and leaving a retention, but he refused.

Thank you.

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
439 reviews

Slow payment is frustrating, but as you mention above, there are some solid steps that can be taken toward getting paid. The first step toward a healthy project and a full complement of recovery tools – so it’s great that a preliminary notice was sent here. Further, a Notice of Intent to Lien is a powerful payment recovery tool, itself.

Before looking at some California’s mechanics lien requirements, it’s worth mentioning that sending a Notice of Intent to Lien to the property owner, in addition to the GC, can really get payments moving. Certainly, property owners want to avoid the headaches and potential litigation that comes with a mechanics lien filing. So, if an owner is aware that their property may be liened because their contractor is slow paying, that owner may be able to apply pressure and get payments moving down the chain. What’s more, California GC’s will have to defend the owner from lawsuits springing from a lien claim on the job – so, a lien would pose a massive issue for the contractor, too.

Filing a California mechanics lien to recover payment

Generally, if a subcontractor has sent their preliminary notice and has completed their work (but not been paid for it), then the subcontractor will be entitled to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien. Of course, the deadline to do so is strict.

California mechanics liens must be filed within 90 days of the completion of the project. Though, if a Notice of Completion or Cessation is filed, that timeframe shrinks to 30 days after the filing of that notice. Notably, though, California subs can’t file until after their portion of the work has been completed. More on that here: California Mechanics Lien Deadline | When Does the Clock Begin to Tick? In any event – keep in mind that a California project’s completion date isn’t necessarily dictated by when inspections take place – and a final inspection isn’t always a great proxy for the project’s final completion date.

It’s also worth mentioning that the right to lien will persist even if there’s a dispute regarding the job’s workmanship, and even if there’s a dispute as to what’s owed on the job.

Additional resources for filing a California mechanics lien

Mechanics liens are generally considered the nuclear option. And, if there’s a way to resolve a dispute without having to file a lien, that will usually be preferable. So, never underestimate the value to pressing and negotiating payment.

Still, mechanics lien claims aren’t always avoidable. If push comes to shove, here are some resources that can help with filing CA mechanics liens:

– California Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs
– How to File A California Mechanics Lien – Step By Step Guide To Get You Paid

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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