California Mechanic’s Lien–When is a 20 Day Preliminary Notice Required?
Most of us by now are well aware of the requirement, in California, as a condition to recording in the recorder’s office a mechanic’s lien, the prior service by certified mail of a preliminary notice. In other words, a traditional subcontractor is required to serve such a pre-lien notice. In other words, if you have a direct contract, whether verbally or in writing with the owner of the project, no such pre-lien is required. But there are cases in which this neat definition does not always apply.
Assume you are conferring improvements to an office building. You are told, and in fact it appears in the contract, that the owner is ABC Company and that is the entity in which you have your contractual privity. So you rely upon this representation and do not serve the pre-lien notice.
Later in the project, when you are unpaid, you record your California mechanic’s lien. But you get a letter from an angry attorney representing ABC company demanding that the lien be released or you will subject yourself to damages for slander of title. The reason: with documents attached to the letter, it appears that the actual owner was DEF Company. ABC Company was simply the construction manager or agent for the true owner. This would mean your California mechanic’s lien is invalid.
To prevent this from happening, it is a good idea to research online with the county assessor’s office. This will give you the actual owner of the property. Or call National Lien Law and we will have it researched for you, free of charge, through our title company.
Remember, a California mechanic’s lien is strictly construed by statute. You must make sure all the legal requisites are done properly.
For more information, visit California mechanic’s lien law and forms.