A mechanics’ 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 material furnished. Anyone who has furnished labor, services, material or equipment and has properly complied with notice requirements is entitled to file a mechanics’ lien.
This includes properly licensed architects, engineers, surveyors, and contractors. Process for Recording a Lien
I. Before recording a lien, a preliminary 20-day notice must be served on the property owner and construction lender in order for a claim of lien to be enforceable. The 20-day notice must be served before recording a lien and not later than 20 days after the actual date of construction begins, and must contain the following information:
- A general description of the labor, services, and equipment to be furnished. If there is a construction lender, he or she shall be furnished with an estimate of the total cost of the services;
- The name and address of the person providing the services;
- The name of the person who contracted for the purchase of the materials or services;
- A description of the job site sufficient for identification; and
- Notice to Property Owner (in boldface type) of potential liens which might result from the owner’s failure to pay.
II. The notice may be served by delivering the notice personally or by first class registered or certified mail to the property owner’s residence, place of business, address shown on building permit, or the address shown on the construction trust deed.
- If served by mail, the claimant (individual filing the lien) must prepare a Proof of Service Affidavit accompanied by either the return receipt of certified or registered mail, or by a photocopy of the record of delivery and receipt maintained by the post office, showing the date of delivery and to whom delivered, or, in the event of non-delivery, by the returned envelope.
- If served personally, the claimant must prepare a Proof of Service Affidavit. (Proof of Service Affidavit forms are available at most stationary stores, construction bookstores, etc.). The “Proof of Service Affidavit” is an affidavit of the person making the service showing the time, place, and manner of service, facts showing that service was made in accordance with the statute, and the name and address of the person on whom a copy of the preliminary notice was served and, if appropriate, the title or capacity in which he or she was served.
III. The claim of lien is a written statement, signed and verified by your agent, containing the following information:
- A statement of your demand after deducting all just credits and offsets;
- The name of the owner or reputed, if known;
- A general statement of the kind of services furnished by you;
- The name of the person by whom you were employed or to whom you furnished services; and
- A description of the site sufficient for identification.
IV. A lien can be recorded, in the office of the county recorder where the property is located, after furnishing services and before the expiration of:
- 90 days after the completion of work of improvement if no notice of completion or cessation has been recorded;
- 60 days after a notice of completion or notice of cessation has been recorded if you are in direct contract with the owner or 30 days if your contract is with someone other than the owner; or
- 10 days after a notice of completion if the work of improvement is accomplished through the use of two or more original contracts.
(Standard forms for filing mechanics’ liens are available at most stationary stores, construction bookstores, etc.)
Filing Suit to Foreclose/Recording Notice of Lis Pendens
No lien binds any property for longer than 90 days after the recording of the claim of lien, unless within that time an action to foreclose the lien is commenced in a proper court. As soon as the complaint to foreclose the lien is filed, you must record a notice of the pendency of the action (notice of lis pendens) with the county recorder.
Release a Lien
If and when you are paid in full, you can release a mechanics’ lien by filing a release of lien with the county recorder’s office where the original lien was filed.
This is provided for informational purposes only and does not purport to be a legal opinion. For specific information regarding mechanics’ liens, see the California Code of Civil Procedure §409, §3084, §3086, §3097, §3097.1, §3115, §3116, §3117, §3144, §3147, and §3154 or consult an attorney. For more information please contact AIA California’s Director of Government Relations Mark Christian, Hon. AIA CA at (916) 448-9082.