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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>Hello. I need help. I need advise on how to fight a lien that was placed on my property by an unlicensed laborer. The property is in California.

Hello. I need help. I need advise on how to fight a lien that was placed on my property by an unlicensed laborer. The property is in California.

CaliforniaMechanics LienPayment Disputes

I own a vacant property in California. The agent who handled my purchase contracted with an unlicensed contractor to do about ten thousand dollars worth of work, mostly paint and flooring . The contractor took my money and did very little. Months later I received a letter from a legal aid lawyer representing a laborer who claimed to have been hired by the unlicensed contractor. This laborer, named Marco Valencia, claimed to have spent two weeks working on the home. He claimed to have worked on paint and installing carpet. The laborer has no license. He has nothing in writing from the person he claims hired him. He claims he worked for no pay with the promise that he was going to be paid later, or something like that. :) ?? The lawyer filed a Mechanic's lien in the amount of $3,522.63. She sites California Civil Code 8400 and 8024. She is telling me that they will foreclose on my property (Civil Code 8460). I offered them $325 to go away. They didn't counter that. They said that was meager. I will await your response on how to fight this. Thank you!

3 replies

Sep 15, 2017
Sounds like a frustrating situation you've found yourself in. And, while there are definitely ways to combat this situation, it is likely to get even more frustrating before it gets better.

First, while there are specific rules, requirements, regulations, and the like governing the ability too claim a vlicd and enforceable mechanics lien - those have little to do with the practical ability to file a lien. In most circumstances, the county recorder does not act as a gatekeeper and guard against potentially invalid liens. It appears you have experienced this first hand in this situation.

Now that a lien has been filed, there are multiple ways in which it may be deficient or otherwise unenforceable; any of which could be used to demand the lien's release/cancellation.

California requires mechanics liens to be recorded within 90 days from the completion of the work, and enforced within 90 days from the recording of the lien - missing either of those deadlines renders the lien unenforceable. Additionally, there are form and service requirements for the lien. You can see more about those here: https://blog.zlien.com/construction-payment/the-practical-guide-to-how-to-file-a-california-mechanics-lien/ But, if certain information is not included on the lien, or if the lien was not properly served upon you as the property owner (and proof of its service filed along with the lien) the lien is likely insufficient, as well.

Also, you note that the lien claimant is a "laborer." A laborer is defined by California mechanics lien statutes as a person who is "acting as an employee." To the extent that the lien claimant was not acting as an employee of the contractor, and was instead acting as a subcontractor additional requirements apply. The claimant would have needed to send a preliminary notice within 20 days of starting work in order to protect the ability to file a lien, and may be subject to the licensing requirements you mention in order to claim a lien. Whether a laborer is required to be licensed depends on the work performed.

Options after a lien are filed can range from proactively attempting to have the lien removed, to initiating your own claim against the lien claimant, to just waiting and doing nothing and seeing if the claimant initiates an action to enforce the lien within the required time period (if he does, you can defend against the claim in court - if he doesn't the lien expires and you can move the court to cancel the lien).

You may wish to employ an attorney to send a letter detailing the ways the lien (may be) is insufficient along with a demand to release the lien, and a threat of you initiating your action against the claimant for slander of title.

If you just want to sit back and wait to "call his bluff" to see if the claimant actually initiates a foreclosure action within the appropriate time, you can do so. It may be worth getting a bit more aggressive, as outlined above, and proactively demanding the lien's release and noting the potential for you to recover your own damages. It would be a good idea to contact an attorney that can more deeply examine the issue (and all supporting documentation) and you can determine how you want to move forward. Best of luck.

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Dec 6, 2019
Good Day.  In the process of selling my home.  However, the prior owner were my parents that are now deceased and a lien is on the title.  The  lien was done back on 10/03/1980.  How can we get this lien off?
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Apr 9, 2020
I just found out I have 3 different liens place on my house from a business I had to Short sell 5 years ago and I no longer own that business and wouldn’t work to resolve the debt awhile I had the business and now have lien on residence. The liens total close to $750k with all 3 loans but the house is only Worth $170-175k on the market and I still have a mortgage loan on it for $115k so how can I get these non-consensual liens removed?
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