Construction Contractors: Don’t Get Stiffed on a Job. Do This Quickly to Protect Your Rights.

By Rachel Puryear, Attorney at Law

If you have put time, money, and labor into a construction project, the last thing you want is to go unpaid for your efforts. You do not even want to have to spend more of your time and energy chasing someone down to pay you, for money you have already earned. Unfortunately, collection problems are common in the construction industry. The good news is, however, that a powerful remedy exists to help subcontractors, contractors, and materials suppliers get paid – it is the mechanic’s lien.

Two construction workers on the job.

A mechanic’s lien is a highly effective tool to quickly get paid money owed to you for construction jobs and supplies. The mechanic’s lien is a claim against property for unpaid construction work and supplies.

This website gives a thorough but easy-to-follow guide to filing your Preliminary 20-Day Notice (required first before a mechanic’s lien can be filed), and then to filing your mechanic’s lien if you need to:

This one is also very good:

Note that the Preliminary 2-Day Notice must be filed within 20 days of beginning the work to preserve the right to file a mechanic’s lien later, if necessary! If you must file a mechanic’s lien (you have not been paid), in California you must do so within 30 days (for subs) or 60 days (for generals) of an owner filing a Notice of Cessation/Completion; or if no Notice of Cessation/Completion is filed, then within 90 days of the last day of work or of work completion. If a mechanic’s lien is filed, then there is 90 days after filing to bring a foreclosure lawsuit to enforce the lien, or the right to do so is lost. These time limits are strictly applied, so do not let the time period lapse.

So if you or someone you know in construction does not already do so regularly, make a habit out of timely filing your preliminary notices, and then follow up with mechanic’s liens if you do not get timely paid. Doing so could mean the difference between getting paid your hard-earned money or for supplies you provided, and losing out. You deserve to get paid, so protect your rights!

As always, dear readers, thank you for reading and for following me. I hope you enjoyed this, and learned something valuable.

** Got a legal subject or question you are curious about? Email it to me at Your question may be discussed in a future blog post!

Please note that the above is offered for educational purposes only. The information presented may not take into account every exception, variation, or complication which could apply to someone’s legal matters. Accordingly, nothing in this post or blog is ever intended as, nor should be construed by or relied upon by anyone, as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney who can give you assistance specific to your needs.


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