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Follow Up Question California Laborer Lien

CaliforniaConstruction ContractPayment Disputes

Thank you for the previous response. I do not see where the attorney made any missteps so far as far as timelines and notifications and all of that. I was hoping you could tell me, just based upon the facts that I gave you, if the lien was invalid, and if so, how I can demand that it be removed. I sent a letter by express mail to the attorney saying that since both were unlicensed that her client had broken the law and also that a lien for more than five hundred dollars cannot be foreclosed upon. She responded that she will not remove the lien. It will be costly to hire a lawyer, I'm sure. I was hoping you can tell me if she is in the wrong. Can I complain to the California State Bar? Can her client open himself to liability, criminal or otherwise? Obviously, I'll never collect on a judgement from him. Should I take him to Small Claims court to get a judgement and get the lien removed? I am in a hurry, because I am trying to sell the home, so I don't want to wait this out. Another question I have for you sir, I do appreciate you help (!), is specifically about this. I read that in California an unlicensed person cannot foreclose on a claim of more than five hundred dollars. I am not sure if and that how that applies here. It seems to me that if that is true then these people are harassing me. This is causing great stress and frustration. Lastly, if I do have to hire a lawyer, would you suggest where I would find the right one? Thanks again.

1 reply

Sep 15, 2017
Yes, California has limitations on the work that can be done by "handymen" or unlicensed contractors - no more than $500 - because the state has an interest in keeping unlicensed parties from doing anything more than minor work. The consequences of contracting without a license can be significant, and there are potential criminal penalties. And, in fact, "a person who utilizes the services of an unlicensed contractor may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction in this state to recover all compensation paid to the unlicensed contractor for performance of any act or contract."

As noted previously, subcontractors are required to provide preliminary notice (while laborers aren't). It looks like this party is attempting to have it both ways: claim not to be a subcontractor in order to get out of the notice and licensing requirements, but still try not to be limited to the value of work potentially allowed to be recovered by an unlicensed contractor. While I don't have enough infomration to tell you conclusively whether the lien is valid or not, it is definitely worth investigating and pointing out the facts that would potentially cause the lien to be invalid.

A strong letter drafted by an attorney setting forth all potential insufficiencies of the lien (and claim for payment), demanding its release, and identifying the potential criminal and civil penalties against the claimant for failure to remove the lien and for contracting without a license may be an option to explore. Just that letter would likely not be prohibitively expensive, but I understand attorneys are expensive. You can also prepare the same type of letter yourself, but it does lack a bit of weight that it would have coming from an attorney. Additionally, to the extent the claim is not supported by law or fact, the attorney representing the claimant has an obligation to investigate the appropriateness of the claim.

There are several places online to find California attorneys, avvo.com, the California Bar Association website, etc. I know this firm http://www.smileyfirm.com/ has attorneys licensed in California and has unique pricing structures, but hiring an attorney is up to you.
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