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We filed our Mechanics Lien, we're now being sued for breach of contract

CaliforniaMechanics LienPayment Disputes

We left the job site with the promise to return the following day if the owner was willing to abandon the use of illegal cash workers... (specifically forcing us to use them in our scope of work and "split" the cost). We emailed on Friday September 15th that we would not accept these workers and upon our arrival an argument ensued stressing that we had to use the workers. (September 18) We were told (and in writing) that we would not be paid our July monies (August & September owed as well) if we didn't return and that the owner had no intention of bringing his job site legal. Several attempts by the owner were made to convince us that his way was the only way and after checking with an Employment Practices Liability Insurance carrier, they said that the risk was too great and to not employ anyone that has not undergone our routine hiring practices. The owner would not comply. The owner then paid our supplier through a joint check and attempted to have our endorsement of the check be a complete lien release. We returned the check and requested a new check be issued to our supplier without the language. We endorsed the check and the supplier got paid in full. We were left standing without being paid for our labor. We filed our mechanic's lien on 12/4, we served the owner with a final demand letter which is required for small claims action on January 5th. He responded by a counter suit of inaccuracies dated January 10th. We were served by mail and have till March 4th (Sunday) to respond. Our response has to contain reference to his avoidance of payroll taxes, workmen's comp for the workers - all of which he was trying to make us an accomplice to on September 18th. At one point he wanted us to oversee a labor crew which conducts unlicensed activity on the weekends, all in our scope of work and liability. Please see the last communications we received. Since that date, my son has reached to the attorney and he won't return any calls. "Sharon My client prefers for me to not engage in discussions with you about the case. We feel strongly we have a solid case. Further, Nathaniel is the contractor and the one accountable for his work. Finally, I suggest you file a release of the mechanics lien immediately. It is flawed and we will hold Nathaniel responsible for it remaining a burden on my clients title and the costs to expunge it. Thant would be a good first step to exhibit good faith. Please cease any further communications with me on your son’s behalf. Steve"

1 reply

Feb 21, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that. The whole situation sounds very unfair. First, I'll note that it sounds like it's time to hire an attorney - this dispute has reached quite the tipping point and there are a number of issues at play. If nothing else, many law offices will provide free or discounted initial consultations, and they may be able to provide some guidance there. Unfortunately, some owners will be patently unreasonable. At this point, it would be wise to begin building your case. Collecting any and all communications relating to a project would be a smart move - especially those communications where an owner has asked to proceed in an illegal fashion or has referenced nonpayment. Again, hiring legal counsel would be a wise move - by hiring your own attorney, they will be able to further assess your situation and decide on a legal strategy for asserting your claims. Further, they will be able to help accumulate relevant and important communications with the owner to fortify your position. Finally, with a mechanics lien filed, keep in mind that foreclosing the lien is still in play. California has a relatively short timeframe for initiating a foreclosure action (90 days - though this can be extended upon agreement) - so keep that deadline in mind. Since foreclosure is a legal action, an attorney would be needed for this step as well.
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