What are my options for contesting a mechanics lien when the repairman won’t respond to my attempts to pay him?

3 weeks ago

The pool service guy that does my monthly pool cleaning put a mechanics lien on my property. In July our filter stopped working and our pool guy said it was because we needed a filter cleaning, and that it would be $75.00 extra. We agreed, and after he completed it, he said that it wasn’t the issue and that we now needed to do some re-piping to the back on the filter. He said that would be an additional $200.00. We agreed again, and he did the work. Our bill arrived for $445.00 ($100 regular service, $260 pipe repair and 85 filter cleaning.) I disputed the amount because it was higher then we were quoted but he only took off $10.00, and said it was more because he spent time researching how to do the re-piping. On top of this my new pool guy said he did a bad job and is now going to charge me more to fix it. Despite this, I sent him a check the first week of August. Unfortunately, I accidentally switched 2 numbers in the address line and just received the check rendered “undeliverable” back in the mail from the USPS. On the same day, I received a Notice of Mechanics lien for sum of $628.00. The pool guy never contacted me by mail, email, text or phone to let me know he hadn’t received payment. Since receiving the notice I have called, texted, emailed and tried to deliver the original check in its returned envelope in person to prove that I had tried to make the payment in good faith and it was just a simple mistake. Despite my attempts, he has not responded at all. I want to settle this, but I don’t know how to if he won’t respond. What are my options? I feel like I am being ripped off with all the fees he is adding.

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

In order to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien, the project property must generally be permanently improved by the work. Meaning, for mechanics lien rights to arise, the work must provide some lasting improvement to the project property. Mere maintenance or cleaning work will generally not give rise to lien rights, by itself. And, in a situation where a mechanics lien was filed for work that’s (at least partially) not lienable, a property owner should be able to contest the validity of the lien claim on those grounds. Further, if the amount owed has been intentionally exaggerated, that might serve as additional grounds for challenging a filed lien.

With all that being said, note that there are a number of different approaches that an owner might take when a lien has been filed on their property. Levelset discusses some of those options here: A Mechanics Lien Was Filed on My Property – What Do I Do Now?

What state is the property located in? It will be easier to determine what options might be available with that information.

Guest
Anonymous

My home is located in California. Thank you Matt.

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

You’re welcome, happy to help! Here’s some additional insight on contesting California mechanics liens:

In California, property owners are entitled to bond off a mechanics lien that’s been filed on their property. If a mechanics lien really needs to be removed from the property title (so the property can be sold, financed, etc.), this might be a good short term solution to a mechanics lien claim. Bonding off a filed lien won’t make it disappear, though. It will just take the property title out of the equation, and it will change the method of recovery some. More on bonding off a filed mechanics lien here: Primer on Mechanics Lien Bonds and Bonding a Mechanics Lien.

Alternatively, under § 8480 of the California Civil Code, filing a petition in court for an order releasing the property from the lien might be another route. Though, this would likely require an attorney to appear before the court since it’s an official legal action. By taking this route, a claimant would need to show how and why the filed lien should be tossed aside in order to have the lien removed. And, showing the court that payment has been attempted but ultimately refused might be compelling for having a lien removed from the property.

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