I received a mechanic’s lien that a sub-contractor filed against my property. But I don’t have any contract with the subcontractor. I contracted with a general contractor, and I have already paid them the amount due under the contract. Can I ignore this mechanic’s lien? Or get it removed?
A subcontractor who performs a work of improvement on your property and follows certain pre-requirements (like sending a preliminary 20-day notice) is entitled under the law to place a mechanic’s lien on the property. The law is clear – and the CSLB warns explicitly on its website – that this can pose issues for homeowners, such as duplicate payments. Because the homeowner is ultimately responsible for paying the mechanic’s lien. It is irrelevant whether you have a direct contract with the subcontractor. It is similarly irrelevant if you have already paid the general contractor for the subcontractor’s work. If you do not pay the amount due under the lien within 90 days, then the subcontractor can file a lawsuit against you to foreclose on the lien. An argument that “I already paid the general contractor” will not hold up. You may have a right to separately sue the general contractor for indemnification for any duplicate payments, but ultimately it is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure everyone doing work on their property gets paid. The amount the subcontractor can recover will be the lesser of the invoiced amount OR the value of the work actually performed. So, if you have an argument that the work they performed was incomplete, for example, that is a valid defense or basis to reduce the amount owed to them, and you should discuss that with the subcontractor right away. But, not having a contract with the subcontractor and/or having already paid the general contractor for that portion of the work will not be defenses in your case. I recommend you reach out to the general contractor and the subcontractor right away and attempt to resolve the dispute before it comes time for the subcontractor to file a lawsuit to enforce the mechanic’s lien.