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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>Can I file a lien when the home owner told me to stop work on the project when the fixed price contract was at 95% completion and is the cost of the lien process worth it for a $3825.00 contract ?

Can I file a lien when the home owner told me to stop work on the project when the fixed price contract was at 95% completion and is the cost of the lien process worth it for a $3825.00 contract ?

CaliforniaRecovery OptionsRight to Lien

I have a home owner that agreed via email to a fixed price contract for floor tile installation, refinishing of hardwood floors and the installation of the bathroom fixtures. Once the carpet was removed we discovered stains in the wood floors ( my contract excluded repair or replacement of any damaged wood flooring) I gave the home owner options to resolve this issue however she did not wish to spend anymore money and had me continue knowing the stains and bad condition of the wood would remain. The evening before I expected to finish the project I emailed an invoice for the contract amount and told her I would be complete around noon the following day. At 10:00 am the next day I received an email that stated I was completely out of line and that I must have made a mistake of at least $1000.00 at this point I knew I was going to have a problem and stopped work on the project until this could be resolved. We met at the project location once after I stopped work and at that time she told me she did not want me to complete the contract and we went discussed what needed to be completed and she said she would get back to me. I sent her a new invoice that reflected a credit of 4 hours which is what I had estimated it would take to complete the contract scope of work. She sent me an email that requested another meeting at the project site when I asked her the purpose of the meeting she listed the same things that we had discussed in the prior meeting plus made comments that were personal attacks toward me and requested how I came up with the figure I had come up with for the contract. I'm still hoping I can resolve this but I need to know what cost effective legal action I can take. Thank you in advance.

1 reply

Nov 8, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that. First, it's worth noting that, before filing a California mechanics lien, parties hired directly by the homeowner need to send preliminary notice to the construction lender if one was present. If no lender was present, though, parties hired directly by the property owner need not send preliminary notice. Further, there are strict deadline requirements for filing a mechanics lien - in California, direct contractors must file a mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days of completion of the work (or 60 days from that date if a Notice of Completion or Cessation is filed). With those requirements out of the way, it's worth looking at who typically will have the right to lien in California, how mechanics liens rights can be leveraged without actually needing to file a lien, and ultimately how to file that lien. First, in California, parties who provide labor and/or material to a construction project will have lien rights for amounts owed and unpaid when they have provided authorized work to the project. Meaning, as long as the owner has authorized the work performed, if that work was performed and unpaid, lien rights are often available to recover for nonpayment. In order for a valid lien to exist, these rights must be exercised within 90 days of the completion of the work (as discussed above). However, before filing a mechanics lien, many find that sending another document - a Notice of Intent to Lien - can be helpful. A Notice of Intent to Lien is essentially a lien warning, and it informs recipients that is the payment issue isn't resolved, a mechanics lien filing will occur. Further, since it's cheap and (relatively) risk-free, a lien can always be claimed if the the Notice of Intent doesn't do the trick. Finally, regarding the cost of filing a lien, it's ultimately up to each claimant to determine whether filing a lien makes sense to recover what's owed. California claimants can file a lien on their own for a relatively small filing fee - only a few hundred dollars. Calling the county recorder's office can help nail down a specific number. zlien has a helpful guide on how claimants can do that here: How to File a California Mechanics Lien. Further, there are a number of online services that claimants can turn to which can help claimants file their lien - including zlien. These services will typically charge a little more than what filing a lien would cost by itself, but they can help verify certain information and have experience with recording documents such as liens. Depending on the situation, of course, either option could make more sense. Of course, before resorting to a lien filing or even a Notice of Intent to Lien, it could be helpful for a claimant to reach out to the property owner to discuss the dispute and try to come to an amicable agreement before tempers flare and any further claims are necessary. Finally, for a little more background on California lien or notice rules, try out the zlien California Lien and Notice FAQ. Good luck!
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