California Mechanic’s Lien–How to Use a Preliminary 20-Day Notice
It is long been the rule in California that a preliminary 20- day notice is not required before a mechanic’s lien is recorded if you have a direct contract with the owner or the owner’s agent. So this would appear to apply to general contractors only. And this applies regardless of your license status. So for example, if you are a roofing subcontractor, it may be typical for you to have a contract directly with the general contractor. But on other Occasions, you deal directly with the homeowner.
But all this changed on July 1, 2012 under Civil Code section 8200. It now requires that any California mechanic’s lien claimant that has a direct contract with the owner must serve the preliminary notice on the construction lender. If there is no such construction lender, there is no need to serve the pre-lien notice.
But how do you know if there is a construction lender? Many times it is in plain sight, namely a construction lender sign at the premises. But if that is not apparent, the law requires that in all contracts between the owner and the prime contractor there is a statement as to the construction lender. Alternatively, you could look to the building permit itself.
If none of those alternatives are possible, National Lien Law can help you with a request for preliminary lien information which requires, as a matter of statutory law, that the owner or the general contractor give out this information.
The important fact is that a California mechanic’s lien cannot be recorded unless and until you comply with the special requirements of a preliminary notice.