California Mechanics Lien. When to file.
As is commonly known, a mechanic’s lien in California filed by a general contractor or sub/supplier, is recorded in the recorder’s office of the county in which the project is located. In most cases, that must be within 90 days of completion of the overall work of job. However, if a notice of completion has been recorded, general contractors have 60 days and subcontractors have 30 days to record their California mechanic’s lien. That aspect of the law is commonly known. But is there such a thing as a premature or too early filing of a California lien?
Yes there is, but let us break this down into the strict law is well as practical application. As a practical matter the recorder’s office will not “bar the door” and will allow you to record a California mechanic’s lien anytime during the course of the project. Technically, as a general contractor, you can record a mechanic’s lien at any time, even in the middle of the job. Also, a subcontractor could theoretically file any time as well.
But be careful. As a matter of strict law, the following rules apply:
General contractors. Only after completion of the overall work of improvement. Specifically, the California Civil Code states:
8412. A direct contractor may not enforce a lien unless the contractor records a claim of lien after the contractor completes the direct contract, and before the earlier of the following times: (a) Ninety days after completion of the work of improvement or (b) Sixty days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation.
Subcontractors/suppliers. Subs and suppliers will file their California mechanic’s lien after they finish their portion of the work, even if it is well before completion of the overall project. Again, the California Civil Code states:
8414. A claimant other than a direct contractor may not enforce a lien unless the claimant records a claim of lien within the following times: (a) After the claimant ceases to provide work or (b) Before the earlier of the following times: (1) Ninety days after completion of the work of improvement and (2) Thirty days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation.
So be careful when planning to file your California mechanic’s lien. The last thing you want to do is set up a technicality for the other side to seize upon.