BARRON & ASSOCIATES -- Mechanic's Liens
GENERAL TIMELINES FOR MECHANIC'S LIENS AND STOP NOTICES

PC: Prime Contractor / SC: Subcontractor
ML: Mechanic’s Lien / SN: Stop Notice
NOC: Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation
Completion (private work): Acceptance by owner; occupation and cessation of labor; or 60 day
continuous cessation of labor.

Prime Contractors
1) Preliminary Notice:  not required.
2) Record/Serve:
  1. ML on Private Work:  must record after completing contract, and w/in 60 days if NOC is recorded,
    OR w/in 90 days after completion if no NOC.
  2. SN:  must serve w/ construction lender after completing contract, and w/in 60 days after NOC is
    recorded, OR w/in 90 days after completion if no NOC.
3)  Lawsuit on:
  1. ML:  must file w/in 90 days after recording ML.
  2. SN:  must file w/in 150 days after NOC is recorded, OR w/in 180 days after completion if no NOC.

Private Work  - Subcontractor
1)  Preliminary Notice: Provide to owner, PC, SC, and construction lender w/in 20 days from first
furnishing labor and/or material.
2)  Record/Serve:
  1. ML:  must record after ceasing to furnish labor/material, and w/in 30 days after NOC is recorded,
    OR w/in 90 days after completion if no NOC.
  2. SN:  must serve w/in 30 days after NOC is recorded, OR w/in 90 days after completion if no NOC.
3)  Lawsuit on:
  1. ML:  must file w/in 90 days after recording ML.
  2. SN :  must file w/in 120 days after NOC is recorded, OR w/in 180 days after completion if no NOC.

Payment Bond: must file w/in 6 months after NOC is recorded, OR w/in 6 months after completion if no
NOC.

Public Work – Subcontractor

1)  Preliminary Notice:  Must be given to government agency and PC w/in 20 days from first furnishing
labor and/or material.

2)  Service: SN: must serve and file w/ government agency w/in 30 days after NOC is recorded, OR w/in
90 days after completion if no NOC.

3)  Lawsuit on:
  1. SN:  must file w/in 120 days after NOC is recorded, OR w/in 180 days after completion if no NOC.
  2. Payment Bond:  must file w/in 6 months plus 30 days if NOC is recorded, OR 6 months plus 90
    days after completion if no NOC.

Federal Work, Miller Act Bond

1)  Notice: to PC by second-tier SC’s and material suppliers within 90 days after last furnishing labor
and/or materials.  

2)  Lawsuit: must file after 90 days, but before 1 year, after last furnishing labor and/or material.
The information contained in this website is an interpretive summary of the private & public works
construction lien statutes and is subject to change without notice.  In addition, the statutes are
complicated, and Barron & Associates strongly recommends that the user seek legal counsel before
relying on this card.  This card is provided as a courtesy and Barron & Associates accepts no liability in
connection with the reliance thereon given that the statutes are subject to change.
California Mechanics' Liens and Stop Notices

Summary

For Private Work, a Mechanics' Lien is an effective remedy for contractors, subcontractors, and others
involved in the construction or improvement of real estate to resolve payment problems. If a service or
materials provider records a Mechanics' Lien against the real estate being improved, the owner can not
easily sell or refinance the property without first paying off the debt secured by the lien. A Mechanics'
Lien motivates the owner to make sure the contractors get paid, and is a prerequisite to filing a
foreclosure action on the property.  The Mechanic's Lien rights are provided for in the California
Constitution, and the manner in which mechanic's lien rights are perfected is based on statutes.  Thus,
it is important to follow the statutory requirements when enforcing your mechanic's lien rights.

However, for Public Work Projects, given that there is no right for a contractor or supplier to place a lien
on the public property, contractors and suppliers can, instead, file Stop Notices to ensure that payment
is provided.  Again, given the statutory requirements to perfect the Stop Notice rights, it is important to
follow the statutory requirements.

Preliminary Notices (20 Day Notice)

Preliminary 20 Day Notices were designed to protect the owner from unknown claims for
subcontractors, and material suppliers who do not have any contractual relationship with the owner.  
Therefore, General Contractors with a direct contractual relationship with the owner are not required to
provide any preliminary notice to perfect their mechanic's lien and/or stop notice rights as the owners
are already aware of the work and potential claims.

Therefore, claimants who do not have a direct contractual relationship with the owner (e.g.,
subcontractors) must provide a Preliminary Notice within 20 days of furnishing labor or materials to the
job. This ensures that the owner is aware of a potential claimant, so that appropriate steps can be taken
to confirm that the contractor is paid. Preliminary Notices must be provided to the owner, general
contractor, and lender, if any.

Mechanics' Liens
Mechanics' Liens are available to almost anyone who contributes labor, services, or materials to a real
estate improvement project. A Mechanics' Lien is used to exact payment out of the real estate itself by
placing a lien on the property, making it difficult for the owner to sell or refinance the property, and if
necessary, allowing the lien holder to go to court to have the property sold at auction.

Stop Notices
A Stop Notice attaches to the owner's undisbursed construction funds, rather than to the property itself,
as is the case in a Mechanics' Lien. A Stop Notice compels the owner or lender to hold the remaining
construction funds so that claimants can recover for work already completed. Stop notices are not
available to claimants with a direct contractual relationship with the owner.

Removing a Lien or Stop Notice
Once a Mechanics' Lien has been recorded, the claimant must file a court action to enforce the lien
within 90 days. If no court action is filed by that time, the lien is no longer valid.  The filing of a
mechanic's lien, and the timely filing of a lawsuit to enforce the lien, can provide the contractor, and/or
subcontractor's and/or material supplier with collateral for the monies owed.  
However, even if a
contractor fails to timely file a court action to enforce the lien, the contractor can still file a breach of
contract claim against the appropriate party if they have a direct contractual relationship.

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BARRON & ASSOCIATES
1600 South Main Plaza, Suite 195
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
edb@barronlawoffice.com
P: (925) 937-4400
F: (925) 937-4450