to the California Lien Laws
Carolyn D'Albora of Levy • von Beck & Associates
may have heard that important changes were recently
made to the California lien laws, which can affect
your filing deadlines. Hopefully the following explanation
will bring you up-to-date, and answer any questions
you might have.
I know that Owners have always been able to file a
Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation (NOC).
Why would they choose to do so?
An Owner is never required to file a Notice of Completion
or Notice of Cessation, but they could always choose
to do so. When the Owner files an NOC, this establishes
a clear date for a claimant to file its Stop Notice
or Mechanic’s Lien. The deadline for filing these
Notices is calculated based on the date the Owner files
its NOC. The benefit to the Owner if it files an NOC
is that it shortens potential claimants’ deadlines
for filing a Stop Notice or Mechanic’s Lien by
30-60 days. It also makes it completely clear what
is the final date for a claimant to file its notice.
The downside for the Owner is that it’s one more
form to fill out and keep track of.
How did the changes in the lien law affect the Owner’s
obligation to send a Notice of Completion or Notice
In the past, the Owner was required to file the NOC,
but was not required to give anyone else a copy of
it. Now, if the claimant timely gives the Owner a preliminary
20-day notice, including the lines recently added to
the form, the Owner is required to give the claimant
a copy of the NOC within 10 days after it has been
How does the Owner have to give the claimant the NOC?
It must be sent via registered mail, certified mail,
or first-class mail, evidenced by a certificate of
Do the changes apply to all private works projects?
No, the changes only apply where the project in question
is NOT residential, or if it IS residential, it is
a project involving 5 or more residential units.
What is the effect of the Owner sending the NOC to
If the Owner timely sends the Claimant a copy of the
NOC, then the Claimant must give its Stop Notice within
30 days after the filing of the NOC, or its Bonded
Stop Notice within 60 days after filing of the NOC.
If the Owner files an NOC but fails to timely give
the Claimant a copy of it, then the Stop Notice or
Bonded Stop Notice must be filed within 90 days after
the filing of the NOC. As to a Mechanic’s Lien,
if the Owner timely sends the Claimant a copy of the
NOC, then the Claimant must file its Mechanic’s
Lien within 60 days after the filing of the NOC. If
the Owner files an NOC but fails to timely give the
Claimant a copy of it, then the Mechanic’s Lien
must be filed within 90 days after the filing of the
What if the Owner doesn’t file an NOC?
If the Owner does not file an NOC, then the filing
deadline for all Stop Notices (including Bonded Stop
Notices) and Mechanic’s Liens is 90 days after
completion or cessation of the project.
What does a potential claimant need to do or be aware
of if they receive an NOC?
The claimant needs to keep track of deadlines, and
if they have not been paid, they need to be sure to
file their Mechanic’s Lien or, if appropriate,
their Stop Notice, within the appropriate time frame.
Otherwise they will lose their lien rights.
Do the changes to the statute require potential claimants
to do anything differently?
Yes, the changes now require an additional couple of
lines in the “Notice to Property Owner” section
of the Preliminary 20-day Notice. That warning is in
bold, and right after the sentence ending “…appropriate
under the circumstances”, the following must
be added, still in boldface type: “Other than
residential homeowners of dwellings containing fewer
than five units, private project owners must notify
the original contractor and any lien claimant who has
provided the owner with a preliminary 20-day lien notice
in accordance with Section 3097 of the Civil Code that
a notice of completion or notice of cessation has been
recorded within 10 days of its recordation. Notice
shall be by registered mail, certified mail, or first-class
mail, evidenced by a certificate of mailing. Failure
to notify will extend the deadlines to record a lien.”
What if a claimant is working on a new custom home,
and timely sends a Preliminary 20-day Notice, with
the new information?
In that case, the Owner is not required to give the
claimant notice of the filing of the NOC, even though
the claimant has notified the owner. Thus it is extremely
important in that case to keep track of the progress
of the project, and timely file one’s Mechanic’s
Lien or Stop Notice to preserve the claimant’s
rights. In this situation, all the old rules apply;
it is not affected by the changes to the statute.
this explanation clarifies the changes, and gives you
guidance as to how to continue to supply projects in
California, while closely protecting your own interests.
Note: This article is provided as a service
and NOT as legal advice, please consult with an attorney
for more specific information.