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Can you leave a lien on property G if the same customer owes you for 10 other jobs can you leave the lien on the one house until everything else is paid

CaliforniaMechanics LienPrompt PaymentRight to Lien

I am a general contractor who works for a bigger general contractor. Over the last six months we have done 150 jobs. They are slow paying me and I want to put liens or at least premiums on the last 45 homes that I have worked on. If they pay the bill on the last 45 homes can I keep the lien paperwork active while I push them to get payment on the other 105 houses ?.. we are in Sac Ca.

1 reply

Mar 12, 2019
Questions related to the reach and appropriate use of mechanics liens to facilitate payment can be tricky. In order to understand how a lien filing may be used, it can help to take a quick look at why a mechanics lien can be so powerful.

A mechanics lien is an involuntary security interest against property. That means that the property that was worked on itself becomes collateral to secure the amount due for its improvement by process of law - provided the claimant follows the rules and requirements to claim the lien. The property can then be foreclosed upon through a foreclosure/lien enforcement action, and sold to satisfy the debt if the parties up-the-payment-chain do not pay what is owed to the claimant.

Since this is such a powerful remedy, there are strict requirements. The first rule/requirement is that liens only attach to the property that was actually improved, and only for the amount due of the specific improvement of that property. California does allow a single lien to be filed against multiple properties provided that the "(a) The works of improvement have or are reputed to have the same owner, or the work was [originally] contracted for by the same person for the works of improvement . . . [and] (b) The claimant in the claim of lien designates the amount due for each work of improvement."

However, this doesn't mean that the lien exists against one property for work done to all the properties. The lien (even if a single lien is filed) must be against all the properties and segregate the amount of work for each. Additionally, from a practical standpoint, county recorders have a difficult time indexing such liens, and will sometimes reject them even though they are allowed by statute.

When projects are on properties with different owners, a different and separate lien is required for each work.

Note additionally that there are other requirements, as well. All parties contracting with somebody other than the property owner must give the property owner a preliminary notice (within 20 days of first furnishing labor or materials). Parties who do contract with the property owner must only give the notice to the construction lender, if any. Further, the lien must be filed within 90 days from completion of the work, or if a notice of completion/cessation was filed either 60 or 30 days from that date, depending on whether the claimant contracted with the property owner or not, respectively.

While liens are powerful, they arise specifically form the furnishing of labor or material to the property against which they can be claimed.

Also note that California has prompt payment statutes that govern the timelines in which payment must be made absent legitimate dispute over whether it is due. These requirements also provide some protection against slow payment.
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