We aren’t being paid and need to file a lien on a California job. Can we include our attorneys fees, interests, filing costs, and other amounts to the total due on our lien claim? Or do we need to keep the lien claim amount down to the principle balance?

Answered 1 month ago

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Matt Viator

Legal Associate Levelset

That's a great question, and it's one we get pretty often. In California, attorney fees, interest amounts, and filing costs cannot be included in a mechanics lien claim. Rather, the amount of a mechanics lien is limited specifically to amounts owed for work performed.

California takes the calculation of a lien amount a step further, though. Under § 8430 of the California Civil Code, a California mechanics lien claim is limited to the lesser of the following amounts: (1) The reasonable value for the work provided by the lien claimant, and (2) the price that was agreed to between the claimant and their customer. So, a California mechanics lien might be limited to an amount lower than the contract price for the work if that price exceeds what's considered a "reasonable value" for the work that was performed.

Of course, it's worth noting that attorney fees, interest penalties, filing costs, and even damages could conceivably be recovered if the lien claim is ultimately enforced and the claimant is victorious. It's relatively common for courts to award at least some of those costs to successful claimants.

Finally, it's also worth mentioning that a mechanics lien isn't the only option when a customer fails or refuses to make timely payments. By sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien, many claimants find that the mere warning or threat of a lien claim is often sufficient to speed up payments - and sending a document like that tends to be a lot cheaper and less of a headache than a lien filing itself. Plus, if payment isn't made, a claimant can always proceed with their lien claim anyway. For more on that idea, this resource will be helpful: What is a Notice of Intent to Lien?

If you have any other questions about California's mechanics lien requirements, these resources should be really valuable:
(1) California Lien and Notice Overview, FAQs, and Statutes; and
(2) How to File a California Mechanics Lien.

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