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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>I was in contract with a client who stated he ran out of money for labor toward the end of the project. He told me that If I'd help him finish he had a master bath remodel he could pay me to do as well as some other work. On the project we were on, based on the promise of continuing paid work, I agreed to help him finish if he would paint the interior while I was out of town. When I returned the hadn't painted the interior and was asking for additional scopes of work. I worked 6 days which he did not pay me for and agreed to return after taking another job to pay my rent. He agreed to this. When I contacted him to return and finish he advised me he had obtained other help to complete the project. I am within the time frame to file a mechanics I lien and have served him a notice of intent t to file. Based on the circumstances do you think I have a case worth pursuing?

I was in contract with a client who stated he ran out of money for labor toward the end of the project. He told me that If I'd help him finish he had a master bath remodel he could pay me to do as well as some other work. On the project we were on, based on the promise of continuing paid work, I agreed to help him finish if he would paint the interior while I was out of town. When I returned the hadn't painted the interior and was asking for additional scopes of work. I worked 6 days which he did not pay me for and agreed to return after taking another job to pay my rent. He agreed to this. When I contacted him to return and finish he advised me he had obtained other help to complete the project. I am within the time frame to file a mechanics I lien and have served him a notice of intent t to file. Based on the circumstances do you think I have a case worth pursuing?

CaliforniaMechanics LienRight to Lien

I contracted with a flipper to remodel a home in the Sacramento area. My contracted provided for me to be paid $3k every Friday during the project. The original estimate for work and labor was $25K. Right after getting started there were several problems that added time to the project. Based on the structure of my contract change orders were not written; verbal consent from the client was obtained. His verbal agreement and a check every Friday kept us moving forward. Nearly upon completion the client told me he was running out of money and that he was having to pay interest to his brother, whom her borrowed the remodel funds from. At the beginning of this project I had a prepaid vacation scheduled three weeks after the expected completion date. Unfortunately due to the complications we ran up against my vacation. The client told me he was out of money and wrote in the note section of the last check he wrote me "final payment." He asked me to help him finish the project; that he was out of funds for this home, but that he could pay me to remodel the master bath in his other home and that he wanted to get started on another flip right away. I told him that if he could paint the interior while I was away, that I would help him finish up. All that was left was setting the kitchen cabinets, installing the counter tops, hanging the doors and lights as well as the trim. This was roughly a weeks worth of work. When I returned from my vacation the client chose to paint the exterior of the residence instead of the interior. He changed the countertop from a remanufactured one to granite right before I left. I told him we could still get this done with his help. I painted the kitchen and got him started on the rest of the residence while I installed he cabinetry and granite. When I finished the cabinetry he decided to change all of the electrical outlets. I stopped and explained to him how to do it and then had to assist him loosing a half day. He then asked me to install tile in the bathrooms. We had agreed on laminate. He also asked for additional canned lighting in the hall. I told him all of these extras where not within our original agreement and that he was going to have to pay me. He said he didn't have any more funds, but once again promised the master bath remodel immediately following completion of this project if I'd help him finish. I told him I had to pay my rent and that I would have to take another job and come back and finish this one. He said he could pay me a thousand to stay and finish and I told him no, that wouldn't cover my rent. He reluctantly agreed and I took the other job. Upon completion I contacted him to help him finish and start his master bath remodel. He informed me that he had obtained "reliable" help to complete the project and would not be using me any more. I sent him a final bill for $3,600 for the six days I worked after he violated the terms of our agreement. I filed and "Notice of Intent to File a Lien" through zlien. Am I in a position to file a mechanics lien?

1 reply

Oct 4, 2018
I'm very sorry to hear about that - it definitely sounds like a frustrating ordeal. Let's look at (1) who is authorized to file a California lien, (2) the time for filing a lien, and (3) amounts that may be included in a lien claim. First, California provides mechanics lien rights pretty broadly for those who perform construction work. In California, a person that provides work authorized for a work of improvement is entitled to file a mechanics lien under § 8400 of the California Civil Code. Regarding the time to file, under § 8412, a party who has a direct contract with the owner may not file a mechanics lien unless it's recorded: "after the contractor completes the direct contract, and before the earlier of the following times: (a) Ninety days after completion of the work of improvement. (b) Sixty days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation." While a direct contractor must wait until the completion of their contract, if the owner informs their direct contractor that they'll no longer be using the contractor's services, this could very well indicate that the contract between the parties is "complete" as it has been terminated. Finally, let's look at what amounts can be included in a lien claim. § 8430-8434 of the California Civil Code provide for amounts acceptable in lien claims. Under § 8430(a), a California lien claim is for the lesser of the following amounts: (1) The reasonable value of the work provided by the claimant; or (2) the price agreed to by the claimant and the person that contracted for the work. However, § 8430(c) also states that "If there is a rescission, abandonment, or breach of the contract, the amount of the lien may not exceed the reasonable value of the work provided by the claimant." Finally, a lien won't extend to cover work that is not included in the contract or a modification of that contract - but the lien statute is silent as to whether a verbal modification of a written contract would suffice. On one hand, generally, written contracts are typically not altered by verbal agreements outside of the written agreement. On the other hand, if work that extended beyond a written contract was performed and at least partially paid for, that could be an indication of the owner's intent to modify the contract. Further, it may even be considered a separate, verbal contract, depending on the circumstances. But tying back into the "who may file a lien" discussion - when work is authorized and performed, that work is typically lienable. And finally, it's also worth noting that when a claimant has made their claim in good faith, errors in amounts included in a lien claim might not necessarily invalidate the entire claim or cause a claim to be fraudulent.For a little more clarity on what work is and is not lienable, it could be helpful to consult with a local construction attorney so that they may review the applicable contract, checks, communications, or any other information to further dig into this claim and advise on how to move forward.
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