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if I didnt file a preliminary at the start of the job, have I waived my rights to file a lien now that the job is complete?

CaliforniaMechanics LienNotice of Intent to LienPreliminary NoticeRecovery Options

Started a remodel project with the contractor in Dec.2017. Finished and passed final on May 17th, and immediately sent invoices for final work. Contractor is having issues with homeowner and I'm not getting paid and keep getting pushed into waiting. I failed to send a preliminary notice at the start of the job. I notified the contractor and owner on friday of last week that I was intending to file a lien if I didnt see payments today. They responded by saying they are meeting today with owner to discuss my invoices.

1 reply

Jun 5, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that. As hinted at above, most parties on California construction projects must provide preliminary notice at the start of the project. Granted, even when sent late, the notice will preserve the right to lien for all work performed after notice is sent - plus the 20 days prior to sending the notice. Anyway, not all parties need to send preliminary notice. In fact, prime contractors and parties considered "laborers" do not need to send notice. A W2 worker would be a good example of a laborer, but let's look at the text of the California Civil Code for more guidance. § 8024 of the CA Civil Code defines a laborer as "a person who, acting as an employee, performs labor upon, or bestows skill or other necessary services on, a work of improvement." Anyway, if a party is not considered a laborer or prime contractor, they're likely required to send preliminary notice and failure to do so will result in the inability to file a valid mechanics lien. As you're likely aware, the threat of filing a mechanics lien can often be effective to compel payment while avoiding having to actually file a lien. While a verbal threat of lien may certainly be effective, sending a document threatening a lien (such as a Notice of Intent to Lien) can be very effective. A Notice of Intent to Lien is a document that puts the threat to writing: If payment isn't made, a mechanics lien will be filed. Even where a valid lien filing might not be possible, sending a Notice of Intent will speed up payments. At the end of the day, the risk of a lien filing is too dangerous for a contractor or owner to call the bluff. Ultimately, if lien threats are not effective to speed up payment, other options are available.
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