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If a contractor is unpaid on a public works project in California, can they file a Stop Notice, a Lien, or both?

Soquel, CA |

If a contractor is unpaid on a public works project in California, what remedies do they have in getting paid?

Specifically, can they file a Stop Notice, a Mechanics Lien, or both?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

The prior post is wrong and incomplete. Your remedies on a public works project to get paid include the following: a stop notice, a claim on the payment bond, a claim on the contractor's license bond, and/or a claim for breach of your subcontract. There is no bonding requirement on a stop notice to a public entity. The bonding requirement is only for a construction lender. If you are not in direct contract with the general contractor, be sure that you have provided the twenty day preliminary lien notice in a timely manner. You should also consider providing notice to the surety of your claim under Civil Code section 3252. Claims on construction projects are very time sensitive, so you should get in touch with a lawyer who has experience with construction claims as soon as you can.


A contractor's remedy is to file a Public Stop Notice. They cannot file a mechanics lien. Note that stop notices can be bonded or not bonded. Bonded are more effective because the public entity is required to hold back funds from the general contractor. There are timing requirements for perfecting the stop notice. You should consult an experienced construction law attorney to help you with the claim.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.


If you are a sub-contractor to a general contractor, you can only file a stop notice. The public entity is required to withhold 125% of the amount of the stop notice. The subcontractor would also have payment bond rights and breach of contract claims against the general contractor. If you are a prime contractor (direct contract with the public entity), then you don't have stop notice rights and your rights are governed by the contract, statute regarding prompt payments etc. You should consult an attorney as there are strict time requirements and the contract may have time limits on filing a claim.