How to File a Mechanic’s Lien in California

How to File a Mechanic's Lien in California

In California, contractors definitely don’t have it easy. Sometimes clients and customers just don’t want to pay up. When this happens, it’s crucial that the contractor files a mechanic’s lien, but that they do it in time. You can’t just do it whenever you want though – California actually offers less time for those contractors to get things done than other states do, and in many cases, their mechanic’s liens and notices of lien also covers less time than other states do, so it’s important that the timing is just right. We’ll help you by giving you some good information on how to file a mechanic’s lien in California, as well as give you some tips on a company that we’ve found who can help!

You Can’t Just File a Lien

You have to let your clients know first if you’re going to file a mechanic’s lien, but the timing of that is important too. If you’re going to possibly file a lien, you have to let your client know within the first 20 days of starting work that you are possibly going to file in 20 days if you don’t receive payment. At the same time, you need to understand that this only covers those 20 days – after that, you may need to file for multiple leans or multiple preliminary notices to ensure payment.

What if a Contract Stops?

If you’re in the middle of working, and you end up getting kicked off of the project by the contractor (if you’re a subcontractor), or if the client cancels and terminates earlier than they’re supposed to, you should file your preliminary notice and lien immediately. Otherwise, you only have a small timeframe – 90 days to be exact – that you can record a lien and serve it to the owner of the property you’re working on. A lot of times, this is enough for the client to go ahead and pay up. If they don’t pay up, then you can do what you have to do next.

The Next Actions

If they don’t pay up, you can take legal action – but you have 90 days after you record your mechanic’s lien to enforce it. This is where you’re going to go to court and you have to have all parties involved, including material suppliers.  In order to make sure you get to keep your rights, you have to ensure that you’re following all of the deadlines on everything during the lien process, or you can lose your right to enforce a mechanic’s lien, which will result in you not getting paid.


If you’re a contractor, subcontractor, or even a material supplier, you may not want to deal with all of the hassle and bustle of paperwork involved. While you’re going to have to do some of that work, a company like BICA has been around to deliver and help contractors across the nation for decades – ensuring billions of them to get the payment that they deserve. They are reasonably priced, and they’ll help you get everything done in the timely manner – so why not use a company like this and save yourself the headache?

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