A local licensed contractor started relatively minimal work on my property without a written contract. "They" (their corporation) enlisted at least one unlicensed sub-contractor to do some of that work. When things went south (after having already paid them 30K!), they filed mechanic's liens against my property. Today, 78 days AFTER the contractor filed a civil lawsuit against me to secure their own claim, I was formally served by the local Sheriff's Department.
60-day time limit to serve a filed civil complaint in CA? Disgorgement action for hiring unlicensed sub-contractor(s)? Failure to deliver a signed contract in the first place?
Since you've been served with a lawsuit, you should immediately contact an experienced construction attorney to represent you in this matter. It sounds like there are a lot of issues involved and many things the general contractor has done wrong. You will also want to file a cross-complaint against the contractor.
You will probably also want to file a complaint against the contractor and the unlicensed subcontractor with the Contractors State License Board. The fact that the complaint was served more than 60 days after the complaint was filed doesn't really affect anything. Courts don't concern themselves much with this as long as the complaint was served before the first court hearing date.
First question. Is your property a residential property that you reside in? If so, then the contract must be in writing and comply with the Business and Professions Code for a "Work of Home Improvement." This requires a number of disclosures and items the failure of which voids the contract. However, some work was performed to improve your property. As such, the contractor may have claims for quantum meruit and/or unjust enrichment that the court may allow to be enforced. However, as a result of the contractor's violation of the Work of Home Improvement Laws, which are designed to protect unsuspecting homeowners, you may be entitled to statutory penalties against that contractor that outweigh any remuneration for the contractor's work.
Now as far as the time limit to serve the Complaint, this is a non-issue and is one for the court to enforce not you as a Defendant, unless it gives you a defense for Latches, which it probably doesn't since the complaint was filed within 90 days of the recording of the mechanic's lien. which was recorded within 90 days of the last work on the project.
Hiring an unlicensed contractor cannot be recovered for under any circumstances. All that work must be disgorged from the claim.
Regardless, you will have to respond to the Complaint. I would also file a contemporaneous complaint with both the Contractor's State License Board ("CSLB") and the bonding company for the contractor.
Next, you want to have the work looked at by three licensed contractors for construction defects and cost to repair estimates before the CSLB sends out an "expert" to evaluate the work done by the contractor.
Also, if both you and the contractor agree to binding arbitration with the CSLB, after the filing of your complaint, that will save you legal fees and stop the court case while you utilize, for free, the services of the CSLB's own expert that it sends you. He or she will also testify at the arbitration for free as to what they found. Those arbitrations I have found, generally favor the homeowner, unless the CSLB expert finds the contractor did nothing wrong, which I have yet to see.
Be sure to include the B & P Code Violations in your contract in the CSLB complaint as well as the Bond company complaint and at the time of arbitration and/or in a cross-complaint against the contractor in the court action. Those outline your statutory damages and right to void the contract.
In all of the above be sure to include the construction deficiencies that were found by your experts and the cost to repair same, each estimated.
Finally, depending on how much the cost to repair is, I would without hesitation recommend that you obtain the advice and assistance of a licensed attorney to assist you in this matter. Remember the words of Abe Lincoln "He who represents himself, has a fool for a client."
All the best in your unfortunate matter.
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