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Mechanic's lien (contractor abandoned project) Consumer Law, Warranties

Discussion in 'Consumer Law, Contracts, Warranties' started by thelawfan, Feb 6, 2020.

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  1. thelawfan

    thelawfan Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    California
    I am a homeowner and hired a landscape contractor to do landscaping from the ground up for my new home (new construction). Everything went fine until the contractor ran into personal and cash flow problems. By then the project was already 2 months behind. He started to show up once in a blue moon and then disappeared completely.

    I subsequently hired another contractor to finish his job and ended up paying a lot more for the entire project. I managed to recover some of my money by disputing the initial deposit with my credit card company and won.

    The original contractor contacted me recently by email (8 months after last contact) saying I owed him the money. He threatened he'll put a lien on my house for that credit card amount plus the cost of labor if I don't pay. He even said don't bother suing him for breach of contract as he's in bankruptcy with no money. Should I be concerned by his mechanic's lien threat? If so, how should I deal with him?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Two points:

    1 - People threaten bankruptcy to scare people into not suing. You can find out if he's really "in bankruptcy" on PACER which is where bankruptcy court records can be found:

    Public Access to Court Electronic Records

    Even if he is "in bankruptcy" you can still sue him and petition the bankruptcy court to allow you to proceed with the lawsuit and/or disallow discharge of his debt to you.

    2 - As for a potential mechanics lien he would have to follow the statutory process. Study up on it at:

    Codes: Code Search
     
  3. thelawfan

    thelawfan Law Topic Starter New Member

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    How easy is it to file a lien against someone's property? I'm trying to see if it's worth his time or he's just bluffing to try to squeeze some money out of me because he's desperate financially. Thanks.
     
  4. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I don't know, but consider the following:

    1. A contractor who has a direct contract with the property owner must record his claim of lien within the earlier of the following times:

    a. 90 days after completion of the work.** Cal. Civil Code section 8412(a).
    b. 60 days after the owner records a notice of completion or notice of cessation. Section 8412(b).

    ** - "Completion" of the work occurs upon the occurrence of any of the events set forth in Section 8180(a), including cessation of the work for a continuous period of 60 days.

    Sounds to me like it may be too late for your former contractor to record a valid lien (which isn't to say that he might not record an invalid lien).

    When did the first contractor last work on the project?
    When did the replacement contractor complete the project?
    Did you record a notice of completion or cessation? If so, when did you do that?

    If the contractor records a mechanic's lien, he then has 90 days to file suit to foreclose on the lien. Section 8460(a).

    If the contractor fails to file suit within the 90 day period after recording the lien, you can petition the court to have the property released from the lien and can be awarded attorneys' fees as a result. Section 8480, et seq.

    I wouldn't worry about this until and unless the contractor records a lien.

    It could hardly be easier. The three-page form is readily available online with a simple google search, and recording costs about $25.
     
  5. thelawfan

    thelawfan Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Now how should I deal with him? I'm thinking:

    1) Do nothing. Ignore his email.

    2) Respond to his email and tell him I don't owe him anything as the project is not finished. Also tell him he'll have an invalid lien (past 90 days deadline). If he insists on filing, get ready to pay attorney fee.

    Thanks.
     
  6. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Never tip your hand to your adversary.

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    Abandonment of a Construction Project
    If the contractor does not start on the project in a reasonable amount of time, if the contractor is unable to complete the agreed upon work, or if the contractor fails to resume their work in a reasonable amount of time, this is considered failing on the contractor's part.

    How the Complaint Process Works - CSLB

    how to prove and fight a contractor that abandoned the job | Levelset
     
  7. thelawfan

    thelawfan Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My last email sent to the first contractor was back in June of last year. He completely ignored my multiple phone calls and emails and disappeared completely. So it's way past the 90 days already.

    The replacement contractor completed the project in September.

    Is the last email I sent him (he ignored it) good enough to document the cessation of work?

    Thanks.
     
  8. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like completion occurred 4-5 months ago, so you should be in the clear and it seems any action the first contractor might take would be frivolous and easily defeated.
     

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