How can I avoid filing a lien on my property?

8 months ago

I have a contractor who is charging me for plumbing work he didn’t perform. The plumbing was done by another company, which off course is charging me. Also the subcontractor believes that the contractor will not pay him once I pay the contractor. the tree of us met yesterday in person. The pre agreement was that I will pay the contractor and at the same moment the contractor would pay the subcontractor but the contractor said he would pay the subcontractor later. After that statement, the subcontractor said “I am out of here. I will file a lien on the property.
Then the contractor keep pushing me to pay him but without having assurance he will pay the subcontractor I told him that I will not pay him.
I told the contractor let’s meet at a bank the three of us so I can pay the contractor and the contractor can pay the subcontractor at the same time. the contractor refuse that and he said he will file a lien and that he will sue me for not payment. Can he do that? What can I do so neither the contractor and subcontractor file a lien on my property?

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
355 reviews

If a contractor or subcontractor has performed work but not been paid for it, either party may ultimately be entitled to file a mechanics lien. But, where a contractor and subcontractor are at odds and where there’s reason to believe that the contractor won’t pay their sub, paying that sub directly may be an option. Further, note that when a subcontractor files a mechanics lien, the project’s contractor will be required to defend the property owner from lien claims.

Paying a subcontractor directly to avoid potential liens

Paying a subcontractor what they’re owed, directly, can help to avoid a potential lien filing from that sub. And, if an owner pays their contractor in full afterward (minus what was paid directly to the subcontractor), that contractor then would not be entitled to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien as long as they’re paid for the work they performed.

Of course, there’s always the potential that the contractor will throw a fit if they’re leapfrogged. But, as long as they’re paid what they would’ve received under the original arrangement, that might just be noise. An owner shouldn’t be required to pay for the same work twice – particularly when a contractor didn’t perform any of that work that would be liened.

A contractor is responsible for their subcontractor’s lien claims

It’s also worth mentioning that, when a contractor has received full payment, the contractor will be responsible for any mechanics lien claims filed by their sub under § 8470 of the California Civil Code. So, if a contractor does fail to pay their subcontractor, they aren’t off the hook. And, reminding a contractor of their duty to defend the property owner if a lien does get filed can help to scare a contractor into doing what they’re already required to do – pay their subcontractor.

I hope this information was helpful! Here’s another resource that might be valuable: I Just Received a Notice of Intent to Lien – What Should I Do Now?

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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