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What does it mean for a contractor to "perfect" a mechanics lien? How do I know if a lawsuit was filed? (In California).

Walnut Creek, CA |

A contractor placed an unwarranted mechanics lien on my house 6 years ago. The lien was recorded in a timely manner, but I don't know if he completed all the steps to keep the lien from now being "stale." I need to get the lien removed for a refi. Thanks.

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Attorney answers 4


If it was 6 years ago you'd know long ago if he filed suit to perfect the

George Wolff

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.


This lien is stale and invalid. A lien is only good in California for a period of 90, 90 days after it was filed, it was invalid unless actions were taken to enforce and foreclose on it. If these actions were taken, you would know it by now.

The lien needs to be removed.

Here is a great article we wrote about removing a mechanics lien in California, as well as some resources from the Sacramento Public Library to do so:
How to Remove a Frivolous Mechanics Lien

You'll need to:

--> Send the claimant a ten day notice, giving them 10 days to remove it voluntarily;

--> If they don't, you'll need to bring an action in court to remove the lien. You will be entitled to a reimbursement of your attorney fees for this.

If you want an attorney to do it, our law firm charges a flat fee to do this. Check that our here:
Lien Removal Suit on Flat Fee

Good luck.

My Mechanics Lien Filing Service at Our number is 866-720-5436. Avvo's terms and conditions apply, answers on Avvo are general responses to hypothetical scenarios presented by questioner.



Thank you, Scott. I guess my question is what the action taken within the 90 days has to be. We received documents from the County that the lien was filed and we received a letter from a contractor lien service. No lawsuit and nothing from a lawyer. Is this what you mean by "we'd know it by now"?

Scott G Wolfe JR

Scott G Wolfe JR


Yes, you would have been served with a lawsuit, and the lawsuit would have been fully litigated by now. If a lawsuit was filed and you were not notified, or if it was not prosecuted, the courts would have most likely dismissed it by now anyway. Pretty safe to say that you don't have anything floating out there and the lien is invalid.


To perfect his lien the contractor would have had to file a lawsuit within 90 days of the recording date of the lien and serve you with a copy of the lawsuit within 60 days after that, so the lien is long expired. You should write the contractor a letter demanding he release the lien. It helps to include a release of lien form with the letter because many contractors don't know how to release a lien. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. If the contractor fails to release it, you can file a petition with the court to get them to judicially remove the lien, and the contractor is liable for your reasonable attorneys fees and costs. Good luck!


I agree with the advice you have been given by other attorneys. However, a six year old mechanic's lien should not be a problem for your title insurance company. Stale Mechanic's lien that are more than one year old are routinely ignored and assumed to be invalid by title companies. The title officer should be willing to insure the new deed of trust for your refinance. If the stale lien appeared on the list of exceptions to coverage. I would confirm with the title officer issuing the report that this item will be removed and covered by the title insurance policy. The potential risk on a lien that old, is so small. I would switch title companies if they don't just insure it. You should not have to go to court for this.