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How can I make prime general contractor pay me for a past due invoice

CaliforniaLien DeadlinesMechanics LienPayment DisputesPreliminary NoticeRight to Lien

Provided some work as a sub contractor and now that work is completed prime contractor doesn’t want to pay.

1 reply

Sep 19, 2018
Payment struggles are a black eye for the construction industry. It seems like once the work is accomplished, there should be no issues with receiving the payment that has been earned. This, however, is not always the case.

In some cases, lack of timely payment can be due to lack of visibility, or mere confusion. Other times, it can be due to more direct causes, like a workmanship dispute, financial difficulties, or even a bad-faith decision to not pay.

In some cases, the most powerful way to secure the payment of the amount owed to a construction participant is through maintaining and asserting mechanics lien rights. Mechanics liens are a powerful tool that actually secures the amount due with an interest in the property itself, which can even be sold to satisfy the debt. In order to maintain the ability to file a lien, however, certain steps must be taken and requirements must be met.

In California, subcontractors are required to provide a preliminary notice within 20 days of his/her first furnishing of labor or materials to the project. If the notice is sent later, it only works to protect the amount furnished starting 20 days prior to the date on which the note was provided. If the notice is provided later than 20 days from the last date on which labor or material furnished, the ability to file an enforceable lien is lost. Finally, if the preliminary notice requirement is met, the lien itself must be filed within 90 days from the completion of the work (or 60 days from the filing of notice of completion or cessation).

If a mechanics lien is not available, there are other options to recover from a GC that is unwilling to pay. Sending a demand letter for payment with the potential to file a lawsuit for breach of contract, breach of the prompt payment statutes, or some other cause of action, can be successful in getting parties paid. There is also always the option to actually file suit, whether in regular court, or if the amount is not greater than the applicable limit, in small claims court.

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