This is a very simple step by step instruction for filing a lien in California. The trick to filing a lien is making sure you follow all the steps from the very beginning so your paperwork is in order. Often in a construction dispute the contractor will wait until the customer wont pay before they begin to consider the legality of their paperwork. However the lien process is much simpler by having correct paperwork from the start.
Step 1) Create a complete contract with the property owner or the primary contractor before starting work. Discover the property owners information, property description and any construction lenders.
Step 2) Send a preliminary 20 day notice to the as required to the primary contractor, construction lender or property owner. Preliminary notices are required for any of these parties that you are not directly contracted with. These notices should be served through certified mail with return receipts.
Did the owner record a notice of completion or a cessation of labor?
Yes – Within 30 days of recording the contractor must record a claim of lien. At this time you would also serve a stop notice.
No- Within 30 days of recording the contractor must record a claim of lien. At this time you would also serve a stop notice.
3) To record a lien you must first notify the property owner with a notice of intent to lien. You must also fill out an affidavit of intent to lien which will be submitted when you record your lien. Typically you allow a 10 day period between serving the notice and recording the lien so the customer may contact you and work out the situation.
4) Within 90 days of recording a lien you must file a lien foreclosure action. You should also record a lis pendens. A lis pendens (lawsuit pending) must be filed and certified with the court system and recorded with the county recorder. A stop notice should be filed at this time.
At his point you will need to file a lawsuit. If the property owner has not backed down and you have already filed a lien you probably get an attorney. The CSLB will get involved by providing an expert opinion to assist the court. This may be a lengthy or expensive process.