Can I file a mechanics lien for the full contract amount when the GC is claiming back charges against us?

4 months ago

We have a contract to do work at a certain amount, and we performed the work. The general contractor and owner is now making claims about our work that we disagree with. Instead of paying us the full amount due, they are making “back charges” against us. We want to file a mechanics lien or something, but want to go after the full amount. When filing the mechanic’s lien, can we still put the full amount due in our opinion? Or do we have to reduce our claim for the “back charges?”

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

That’s a great question, and I’m sorry to hear you’re having to fight for payments you’ve already earned. Back charges are a regular source of frustration in the construction industry, and they’re also a common cause of payment disputes. But, just because your contractor contends back charges are appropriate doesn’t mean they actually are – and amounts in dispute could certainly still be liened.

In fact, most lien claims feature some dispute as to what’s owed – whether that be relating to the price of work, issues with change orders, or workmanship disputes. Ultimately, mechanics lien rights are available for amounts owed but unpaid for the work done or materials furnished, even when there’s an argument as to what is owed. So, just like when there’s a dispute over any other facet of the job, a lien claim can be filed for amounts represented in a disputed back charge.

If you have other questions about back charges or California’s lien laws in general, these resources will be valuable:
(1) Discussing Back Charges in Construction; and
(2) California Lien & Notice Overview and FAQs.

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