Mechanics Lien by a PG&E subcontractor without any notification of work.

7 days ago

Can a subcontractor (Asphalt Company) file a mechanics lien against a commercial property for resurfacing a business driveway that PG&E dug holes in to replace gas lines. PG&E (Calif.) gave them instructions to resurface the whole driveway and not just the small areas where they dug the holes. Do I have any recourse to block or remove their lien if they file one. Nothing has happened yet.
Larry G

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

Generally, a California subcontractor cannot file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien unless they’ve first sent preliminary notice. So, if a would-be claimant has failed to send preliminary notice, any lien claim they end up filing would likely end up being invalid and unenforceable.

Before going further, I think this resource should be valuable if you’ve been threatened with a lien claim: I Just Received a Notice of Intent to Lien – What Should I Do Now?.

How to fend off a California mechanics lien claim

It can be hard to procedurally block a mechanics lien claim before it’s filed. However, by showing a prospective claimant the flaws in their potential claim, and by communicating that any mechanics lien filing will be vigorously defended, an owner may be able to convince a claimant to refrain from filing their lien.

Further, if necessary, making legal threats against a claimant deadset on filing an improper lien can help to fight off a lien. When an improper lien claim is filed, the owner may be able to get the lien discharged and could end up forcing the claimant to pay for their attorney fees and costs associated with defending against the lien.

Once a mechanics lien is filed, an owner will have more options to fight the claim

Now, if a mechanics lien filed ends up actually being filed, and owner will generally have some tools at their disposal to get the lien removed from their property.

For one, an owner can bond off a filed mechanics lien and force the claimant to pursue legal action if they want to get paid. And, while bonding off a lien claim won’t make it disappear, it can clear the property title while also forcing a claimant to evaluate whether they really want to pursue their claim. Of course, securing a mechanics lien bond isn’t always a particularly cheap undertaking.

Further, a property owner can always “officially” challenge a lien filing by filing an action to dispute the lien claim. By filing an action to challenge the lien, an owner can ultimately have a lien claim deemed invalid and discharged from the property (if the lien is flawed). Granted, hiring an attorney to file action to dispute the lien claim can be expensive – though a successful owner may be able to get a court to award them attorney fees and costs.

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