A mechanics lien is a "hold" against your property. It is recorded by the county recorder's office, when filed by an unpaid contractor, laborer, or material supplier. The homeowner is, in general, liable even if the prime contractor was paid. If you are buying a house which has signs of recent work, check if a mechanics lien can be filed on the property.
A Preliminary Notice is required from subcontractors and suppliers. If subcontractors and suppliers don't provide the owner with the notice, they lose the right to file a lien.
One way homeowners can avoid having liens placed on their property is to make payments using joint checks. This requires all parties to endorse the check and provides proof of the payment. The current owner can provide proof of payment for the work and that can be used to prevent a lien from being filed. Lien releases are also sometimes obtained when payment is made.
When a Notice of Completion is filed with the county recorder's office after work is completed the amount of time during which a mechanics lien can be filed is reduced to:
Prime Contractor – from 90 to 60 days
Subcontractor – from 90 to 30 days
What To Do About A Mechanics Lien
• If the work was not completed or supplies were not included in the plans or contracts the lien may not be valid.
• If the required timelines were not met, the lien may not be valid.
Try to obtain the Preliminary Notice, if one was filed. (Direct contractors / laborers don’t have to file preliminary notices) A claim is only valid for work done or supplies delivered from 20 days before notice was given to the end of the work.
See if the Notice of Mechanics Lien accompanies the lien claim. There should be a Proof of Service Affidavit completed and signed by the person serving the Notice and the claim.
Check with your superior court to see if a timely lien foreclosure action has been filed. A claimant must file a foreclosure action within 90 days of the recorded mechanics lien. Failure to do so can make the lien invalid.
You may be able to get the claimant to remove his claim if you contact him. Petitioning the court is a complicated process that may require the services of an attorney.
For more info, go to: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/