The Design Professionals’ Lien is a claim against the real property on which the claimant has bestowed labor or furnished material for the value of the labor done or materials furnished. Unlike a mechanics’ lien, a design professionals’ lien affords licensed architects, engineers and land surveyors lien rights when no actual construction of the planned work of improvement has commenced.

Process for Recording a Lien

1. The following requirements must be met before recording a design professionals’ lien:
• The services were provided pursuant to a written contract between the design professional and the property owner;
• The property owner who contracted for the design professionals’ services is the owner of the real property at the time the design professionals’ lien is recorded; and
• A building permit or other governmental approval in furtherance of the work of improvement has been obtained in connection with or utilizing the services rendered by the design professional.

2. When filing a lien the design professional must, within 10 days prior to recordation of his or her lien, serve the property owner by registered or certified mail, a written demand for payment, and notice that the owner is in default of the contract.

3. The claim of lien is a written statement, signed and verified by your agent, and containing the following information:
• Specification that the lien is created in favor of the design professional (your name);
• The amount of the lien (amount owed and unpaid pursuant to contract or reasonable value of the services, whichever is less);
• Identification of the building permit or other governmental approval obtained for the work; include a legal description of the property to be improved; and
• Identification of the current owner of the property.

4. The lien must be recorded within 90 days after the design professional knows or has reason to know that the property owner is not commencing the work of improvement.

5. The lien claimant must file an action to foreclose the lien within 90 days after the lien is recorded.

Priorities and Exceptions
The design professionals’ lien may not be recorded for work relating to a single-family owner occupied residence if the total anticipated construction costs are less then $100,000.The design professionals’ lien will never take priority over a lien recorded by a construction lender, even if the construction lender’s lien is recorded after the design professionals’ lien is recorded. The design professionals’ lien will be subordinated to the interest of a record purchaser, lessee, or encumbrancer, recorded prior to the date the design professionals’ lien is recorded. The design professionals’ lien automatically terminates and becomes void upon commencement of construction. If construction commences, serve preliminary 20-day notice and pursue mechanics’ lien or stop notice remedies.

This is provided for informational purposes only and does not purport to be a legal opinion. For the specific language regarding design professionals’ liens, see the California Civil Code §3081.1 or consult an attorney. For more information please contact Kurt Cooknick at 916/448-9082.

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