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Do I need a pre lien filed in order to lien a project?

CaliforniaPreliminary Notice

A client is refusing to pay the final invoice on a two year project. No reason just won’t pay.

1 reply

May 31, 2019
Sorry to hear about your situation. There's no reason anyone should have to fight to get the money they've earned. First and foremost, let's clarify some terminology. Preliminary (or prelien) Notices are not required to be filed in California. But a preliminary notice must be served on the owner and prime contractor within 20 days of first providing labor or materials to a project. Serving a late notice is allowable, but it will only be effective for the labor or materials furnished in the through the preceding 20 days. Ultimately, if a preliminary notice was sent to the appropriate parties, then some lien rights have been secured.

As stated above, a CA prelim notice is not required, but it does provide some advantages. The main one being that the county recorder's office will notify the claimant directly if a Notice of Completion or Cessation is filed on the project. This is important because the filing of a Notice of Completion has a serious impact on lien deadlines. If filed, this can shorten the deadline to file a claim of lien from 90 days after substantial completion, to merely 30 days after the notice was filed. Now, if a prelim is served properly, if a Notice of Completion is filed, the owner/prime contractor is required to send notice of it's filing anyways. Failure to do so means the subs lien rights shouldn't be affected by the Notice of Completion anyways. So at the end of the day, actually filing a preliminary notice isn't particularly necessary. Furthermore, this could end up costing money just for filing fees alone!

If you have any other questions regarding California's notice requirements, these resources will be helpful: The Ultimate Guide to California's 20-Day Preliminary Notice; and California Mechanics Lien & Notice Overview.
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