A mechanic’s lien is a lien that contractors, sub-contractors, laborers, material suppliers, and design professionals may record against real estate as a first step in enforcing the property owner’s obligation to pay for those services or materials. In California, once a mechanic’s lien is recorded against the property, the lienor can then commence a legal action to foreclose on the property. If a mechanic’s lien has been recorded against your property, it is critical that you deal with it, and that you deal with it quickly. Failing to deal with it in a timely manner risks becoming a party to a lawsuit and ultimately risks losing the property at a foreclosure sale.
So you ask what should I do if a mechanic’s lien has been recorded against my property? The first question that needs to be asked is whether or not the money is rightfully owed. If the money is rightfully owed, the best course is to resolve the dispute with the lienor, by either paying the amount owed, or entering an agreement that provides for the payment of monies over time in exchange for a release of the mechanic’s lien.
Sometimes, however, even though the lienor has placed a mechanic’s lien against the property, the amounts the lienor contends are owed are not owed or there is a dispute, typically a dispute relating to the manner in which the services were provided. If there is a dispute or the monies contended by the lienor to be owed are not owed, the owner of the property has a variety of legal recourses available to them.
First, you can make an attempt to resolve the dispute and cause the lienor to release the lien.
The property owner could also purchase a bond which releases the lien, which replaces the bond as security for the obligation in place of the property.
The owner can also file a legal action against the lienor to prevent the lienor from foreclosing on the property, on the basis that the mechanic’s lien is invalid.
Once the mechanic’s lien has been recorded, the lienor has a short period of time to commence legal action to foreclose on the mechanic’s lien. As of the date of the writing of this article, the amount of time under California law to file a lawsuit to foreclose on the mechanics lien is generally within 90 days of the recording of the lien. If the lienor fails to timely commence the action to foreclose on the mechanic’s lien, there is a quick, relatively inexpensive court procedure, that you can file to obtain a court order releasing the lien. This procedure is started with the filing of a Petition to Release Lien.
Similarly, if the lienor has commenced the action to foreclose the mechanic’s lien, but the lien is legally invalid, the property owner can file a Motion to Release or Expunge the Mechanic’s Lien in that Action.
There are a variety of options available to the owner depending upon factors including whether or not the amounts owed the lienor are in fact owed, where you are in the process, and whether or not the lien is valid. The one factor that is consistent regardless of the course you take is that timing is very critical for both the lienor as well as the property owner.
I regularly represent clients in the East Bay, California, Oakland, California, Walnut Creek, California and throughout the Bay Area, relating to many different real estate matters including mechanic’s liens and stop payment notices. If you have questions, or need representation by a California real estate attorney to enforce a mechanic’s lien, or to challenge a mechanic’s lien, please feel free to contact me to discuss your case or to arrange for a consultation at (510)465-0025 or (925)708-3306.