Have we lost our rights to file a mechanic's lien?

Summary: Just because it's been 171 days doesn't necessarily mean they can't lien the job

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QUESTION: My husband is a General Contractor who is interested only on working and doesn't want to deal with the paperwork and we have a project that he didn't do a pre-lien on and the owner refuses to pay us.

The work was ongoing in spite of it because the owner is an acquaintance of us and the owner even made ongoing changes which made the project to be delayed until finally the project had to stop because she was too behind with the payment and we incurred a lot of expenses on the labors and materials and the changes going back to the architect and engineer and to the city for approval.

She got a Lawyer complaining about the dust, the delays and some minor things to get away from paying. We responded to her complaints and that's the last thing we heard from them and the lawyer is a Divorce Lawyer and it is very hard to communicate to her because she has no clue of the construction world. Their intention is just to intimidate us.

That was Oct. 16, 2006 and my question is since there is a dispute and we didn't file a Mech. Lien did we lose our rights or can we still file?

Josie Carolino


Answer: A contractor that contracts directly with a property owner does not have to serve a 20-day preliminary notice and can record a lien without having served a 20-day preliminary notice.

A general contractor must record a lien within 90 days after completion of a project or, if a valid notice of completion is recorded, within 60 days of the recording of a valid notice of completion.

If there is a cessation of work on a project for 60 days, a general contractor has 90 days after that 60-day period to record a lien or, if a valid notice of cessation is recorded, 60 days after that 60-day period.

More clearly stated, if a job isn't completed and work stops, a general contractor has at least 120 days after the work stoppage to record a lien, and may have 150 days after the work stoppage to record a lien.

Interestingly, if work resumes after a work stoppage of over 150 days, a lien will be available again because the project will not yet be complete and there will not have been a work stoppage of over 120 days.

Thank you to Dave Barnier for the above response. :) Mr. Barnier is a practicing litigation attorney in San Diego CA and can be reached at 619.682.4842.

The information in this article is based upon California law and is provided for general information, only. The information provided illustrates laws and legal principals in general. Any information or analysis presented in this article is intended solely to educate the reader on general issues. A comprehensive review of facts, documents, and applicable laws is always required before any attorney can competently provide any legal advice regarding any particular situation. In short: Please do not rely on any part of this article when analyzing any specific situation affecting you or your business.