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Is this a Willful Exaggeration and Fraudulent Mechanic's Lien pursued in Bad Faith and based on a Dishonest Premise?

CaliforniaMechanics Lien

Sorry I know we are not suppose to write books here, and I tried to keep it as short as possible, but given the context of my question, I felt the details of the timeline of events, actions, pattern of behavior and reactions would be relevant. I hired a verified active Licensed and Bonded Contractor to complete a list of items that I signed a contract for, that he provided. The contract states the total price, and that I have 15 working days to pay the invoice from the date that the work is completed. And if it goes past that date, there will be a 5% interest penalty charge on any unpaid invoice. I bought/provided the materials. He just charged for Labor. These were the items: 1. Install Kitchen Cabinets 2. Install New Ceiling Fan 3. Swap out old ceiling fans 4. Installation of shower- (shower pan, hardie board, tile wall/grout, plumping fixture, shower door) 5. Installation of Recess Lighting in Kitchen 6. Replace GFCI Outlets in Kitchen Throughout the entire process from start to finish there are countless documented text message examples and evidence of his extremely unprofessional, condescending, aggressive, disrespectful and hostile behavior. As seen in my documented responses and replies, I had remained nothing but professional with him. I made sure to keep almost all of our conversations via text message, so that there is documented proof of what we discussed. He texts me that everything is done today. Before I go to the property to check everything, I text him that I will turn on the water to the house next week to test to make sure the shower that he installed works, but I ask him if he wants a portion of the invoice money now and then the rest of the money after I test the shower. He doesn't answer the payment question and instead starts going on a condescending text storm mocking my desire to test the shower. He says if there is a water leak it's my fault. Then says, "you get what you pay for". He says all of this before I even check his work. The next day I go to the property and immediately find that the kitchen cabinet shelves are still not installed, the recess lights are left dangling, a receptacle is hanging not secured to the wall , and there is a crack in the brand new shower pan. He said the crack happened when a tile fell, he'll fix the crack later, and to let him know when I'm done with everything else for him to come back to finish. The time comes for him to come back and finish. I explain that the home inspection report just came back and that there are several more issues needing to be corrected; Those included: The shower valve is not working properly as there is barely any water that comes out of the shower head, in addition to improper wiring for the attic recess lighting in which I attached clear pictures and proof of mistakes from home inspector. He immediately goes on another text tirade questioning the validity of inspection report, and makes clear he is unwilling to correct the recess lighting's improper wiring. He then says that the shower issue is caused by rusty pipe and that it is out of his hands. (It's important to note here that the water was off at the time of installation, which means he never tested the shower for himself, but he made this diagnosis over a text message without any intent on seeing it in person). He then says he will send his guy to go there to only fix the crack shower pan but it can only be on a weekend. And then he tells me that in 2 weeks he will not be available for 6 months on another job out of town. Due to his clear unwillingness to correct the items (even after I gave him a clear and fair opportunity to respond and correct said items) and due to his open hostility and aggressiveness towards me via that Text exchange, it was clear that the conversation was beyond reconcilable, so for safety reasons I did not want to further escalate the situation and did not want to reply until I sought council since he had already stated in his texts that he would not be correctly completing all the contracted items. 3 days later, he places a Mechanic's Lien on the house and added an additional $500 (which is 35%) on top of the total amount that was stated on the signed and agreed contract. The lien document states a 10% interest per annum from 2 months ago. Even though on his own contract terms it clearly states 5% interest penalty only after 15 days has past since the work has been completed - Which in this case, the work clearly hasn't been completed. Lastly, on the Mechanic's Lien Document under the Street Address section where it says 'Legal Description', he writes: "uncooperative and fail to pay for work perform under contract" Is this a Willful Exaggeration and Fraudulent Mechanic's Lien pursued in Bad Faith and based on a Dishonest Premise?

1 reply

Jun 7, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that. It's tough to know exactly what would qualify as a willful exaggeration of a mechanics lien, and ultimately, it would be up to the court whether a lien were willfully exaggerated (if the lien were challenged). But, generally speaking, a California mechanics lien claim should be limited to the reasonable value of the work provided by the claimant, or the price agreed to by the claimant and the person who contracted for the work (minus the payments already received). Thus, filing a mechanics lien for 35% beyond the contract price would be suspect at best, and may very well qualify as a willful exaggeration. Further, the California Civil Code section which controls the amount that a mechanics lien may be filed for (§ 8430-8434 "Amount of Lien") makes no mention of the availablility of including interest penalties in a lien claim. While interest penalties contemplated in the contract could arguably be proper, when interest on a lien far exceeds contemplated interest penalties, it would seem hard to justify the lien amount. Finally, mechanics liens call for the legal description of property. When something else is included as the legal property description - and when the legal property description does not appear elsewhere on the lien, the requirements of a California mechanics lien have likely not been met. Thus, the lien might not be enforceable - and challenging the lien for lack of a legal property description could be a viable option to avoid liability pursuant to the lien. Ultimately, when a mechanics lien has been filed and there may be a number of flaws with the claim, it's a good idea to hire a local contruction attorney to help fight the lien claim. Lien claims can potentially cause a lot of damage, and proceeding with a construction attorney in your corner is the best way to avoid missteps. Lastly, this article might be helpful: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?.
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