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CA: can I restart mechanic's lien timer?

Pasadena, CA |

Hello , I last did work on a residential rehab job over 90 days ago , so we are outside the lien time line . There was one punch list item left , which was to re - cover a chair where we got paint on the upholstery . We did so , but have had a hard time reaching the homeowner ( chair has been re - covered for a couple of months and homeowner is aware of this via unreturned texts and phone calls ) . I finally got a response last week . I think we are going to have to file a lien to get paid the balance on the contract . My question : can I use the date I deliver the re - covered chair as the final date of work on the property for the purposes of filing a lien ? Or is it already too late ? I have documentation ( email ) from the homeowner stating they know we have not yet delivered the chair as of last week

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Attorney answers 4


Fixing a chair probably does not count as a work of improvement under the law so it probably does not extend the lien time.

Even if you have lost the lien you still could file suit against the owner or the party you contracted with.

(liens have to be sued on within 90 days of recording to remain valid anyway, so even with a lien you likely would still have to file suit)

This is NOT legal advice, just a general discussion of the law, as we are not familiar with the specific documents and facts of your case, etc. Please consult with a competent attorney in this area of the law for specific legal advice regarding your particular case, as the advice may vary depending on the facts.


Mechanic's lien are improvements to the property. Since the chair is portable and not fixed to the property, work on a chair is unlikely to support a Mechanic's Lien.


I agree with my colleagues that the chair is not going to extend the time for recording a mechanic's lien.

California Civil Code Section 3115 and 3116 provide that the mechanic's lien must be recorded within 90 days of "completion of the work or improvement."

"Completion" is defined in Civil Code Section 3806 as:

--Actual completion of the work.

--Occupation or use of the work of improvement by the owner accompanied by cessation of work.

--Acceptance of work by the owner.

--After the commencement of a work of improvement, a cessation of labor thereon for a continuous period of 60 days, or a cessation of labor thereon for a continuous period of 30 days or more if the owner files for record a notice of cessation.

Note that a contractor would still have a breach of contract action against the homeowner, even if the contractor missed the deadline to record a mechanic's lien.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


You probably do not have lien rights, but you do have the right to sue for breach of contract and other claims.
You can try and put some pressure on the owner by sending him a mechanic's lien, BUT DO NOT FILE OR RECORD IT. If it is not recorded then it is not a proper lien, but the owner might not know that and that might be enough of a threat to get him to pay. JUST MAKE SURE YOU DON'T RECORD IT. Doing that could lead to all kinds of other problems for you.
Depending on the amount due, it might be worth it for you to talk with a construction attorney.