what do i do if house has been sold to new owners

8 months ago

contractor bought house, tore it down, built new house, hired me to repair sewer line, then sold the house. Has not paid me and will not return calls. Can I lien house even though it has new owner, and who do i send the letter to?

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
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Mechanics lien rights tie to the project property, not to any specific individual or business. So, if an owner has work performed on their property and fails to pay for it, then a lien claimant should still be entitled to file their mechanics lien against the project property.  More on that here: What Happens If I Filed My Mechanics Lien After the Property Was Sold?

Granted, keep in mind that California mechanics liens have a strict filing deadline. A contractor hired by the property owner must file their lien within 90 days of the completion of the work of improvement, or if a Notice of Completion or Cessation was filed – then within 60 days of that filing.

As for notice of the filed lien – when a California mechanics lien is filed, notice of that filing must be given to the owner of the property. So, the party who owns the liened property at the time of the lien should receive notice. Granted, sending additional notice to the prior owner who failed to make payment could be beneficial, too.

For more on California lien claims, these resources should be valuable:

– California Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs
– How to File A California Mechanics Lien – Step By Step Guide

Recovering payment without actually filing a mechanics lien

Keep in mind that the mere threat of a lien claim is often enough to recover payment. By sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien to both the new owner and the prior owner, a claimant can put pressure on their customer to pay what is owed. Nobody likes dealing with a mechanics lien – but a purchaser of a new home will typically be particularly sensitive to a lien claim on their land due to the previous owner’s failure to pay their debts.

Not to mention, when a property is sold there are warranties and assurances from a seller to the buyer that the land is free and clear of other claims against the property. So, the seller could face serious liability if the buyer’s new title to that land is put in jeopardy.

More on recovering payment via Notice of Intent here: What Is a Notice of Intent to Lien and Should You Send One?

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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