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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>How do I protect myself against a subcontractor who is licensed and was hired by my general contractor unknown to me. He was paid but now claims he was not paid enough for his work on the plumbing. The plumbing is completed and I filed a notice of completion with the County clerks office. I then served my general contractor with the notice and posted the property. The sub did NOT file an preliminary notice or have any written contract to do this work it was all verbal agreement according to my contractor.

How do I protect myself against a subcontractor who is licensed and was hired by my general contractor unknown to me. He was paid but now claims he was not paid enough for his work on the plumbing. The plumbing is completed and I filed a notice of completion with the County clerks office. I then served my general contractor with the notice and posted the property. The sub did NOT file an preliminary notice or have any written contract to do this work it was all verbal agreement according to my contractor.

CaliforniaPayment DisputesRight to Lien

My general contractor hired a subcontractor to do the plumbing on a remodel. I was unaware of him and after the work was completed he claimed he was not paid enough and will file a mechanics lien against my property. He did not file a preliminary notice or have anything in writing it was a verbal agreement with the general contractor. I filed a notice of completion with the county clerk and served my general with it. Also posted the property. What can I do to protect myself?

1 reply

Nov 6, 2018
That's a great question. First, it sounds like you've done a good job of protecting yourself thus far, and I'm impressed with your familiarity with California's lien laws! First, before taking any drastic action, it's typically a good idea to discuss the issue with all parties involved to try and resolve the dispute amicably. Anyway, as you may already know, filing a Notice of Completion serves as good protection for property owners. When a Notice of Completion is filed, any lien claims by someone other than the direct contractor must be made within 30 days of a Notice of Completion filing. Lien claims filed after this timeframe would be invalid and likely could be removed with relative ease. Thus, one option could be to simply wait it out. Another option could be to contact the potential claimant to notify them that, if preliminary notice was required and not sent, a subsequent lien claim would be invalid. Further, mentioning that lien claims filed in excess of what's owed could result in a fraudulent lien could also be helpful. When a claimant knows that their lien would ultimately be invalid, it might be helpful in persuading them not to file a mechanics lien. Plus, if the claimant is put on notice that a subsequent lien claim would be improper, that might serve useful in proving a lien fraudulent down the line if the dispute gets out of hand. Yet another option could be to remind the project's general contractor that they will be required (under § 8470 of the California Civil Code) to defend the owner from lien claims made by their subcontractors if the dispute continues to a lien enforcement action. When a contractor fully understands that a lien is their problem too, they may be more motivated to resolve the payment dispute. Finally, it's worth mentioning that, by itself, the fact that work was provided under an agreement other than a written contract will not prevent a mechanics lien filing. Of course, all other requirements and prerequisites still apply.
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