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Home>Levelset Community>Legal Help>In California, is an unlicensed laborer (who doesn't consider himself a contractor) who installed tile in a home and was not paid in full by the general contractor, entitled to foreclose on a mechanic's lien?

In California, is an unlicensed laborer (who doesn't consider himself a contractor) who installed tile in a home and was not paid in full by the general contractor, entitled to foreclose on a mechanic's lien?

CaliforniaMechanics LienPayment Disputes

Laborer filed a lien for $1140, hasn't been paid by the general contractor for a small residential tile job. Now threatens to foreclose on the lien. Laborer claims he is not a contractor, is not licensed, but an employee of the general who can perfect the lien.

1 reply

Jun 29, 2018
In California, laborers are entitled to file a mechanics lien against the project property. In fact, laborers, unlike other project participants, aren't required to send preliminary notice prior to filing a lien - making lien rights a little more available to laborers than others. Further, regarding licensing, only those parties required to be licensed must hold a license in order to file a valid mechanics lien in California. That is, if an individual laborer isn't required to be licensed to perform the work they performed, the lack of licensure will not prevent a valid lien filing.

The good news, though, is that under § 8470 of the California Civil Code, a contractor is required to defend against lien claims based on work provided to them. As in, if a contractor's subcontractor files a lien after going unpaid, that contractor must defend the owner in the lien action. Further, failure to pay laborers is quite likely a violation of the California Business and Professions Code - so threatening to file a claim against the contractor (or actually filing that claim) can often convince a contractor to finally make payment.

Regardless, when a lien filing has occurred, a property owner should consider consulting legal counsel. They will be able to review the situation and provide options for moving forward - including potentially bringing claims against the contractor, if necessary. For more information on how to respond to a lien claim, this article might be helpful: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?
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