Frequently Asked Questions
can't I save/email/fax the adobe form I just filled in?
* The form I am trying to open won't open. Why?
* Aren't you afraid that supplying this information will help
* Why do the webpages disappear off of the right side of my
* How long should I keep my job records?
* As a homeowner, I want employees of contractors working
on my home to sign a release indicating that they have been
Q: Every time I try to save/email/fax the
Adobe pdf forms and documents that I have edited/filled in,
they come out blank (without the data that I entered). Why
can't I save/email/fax the Adobe pdf forms and documents after
I have edited them/filled them in?
A: Adobe does not allow users of Acrobat Reader to save/email/fax
pdf forms and documents. In order to do this, you must purchase
the full on Adobe Acrobat program.
Q: The form I am trying to open will not
A: There can be several reasons for this problem. The most
common solution so far has been to completely quit your Acrobat
Reader program and then click on the link to the form. This
should make your Acrobat Reader program *launch* and then
the form should open. If this does not work, here is a link
to Adobe, directly to the technical help answer that addresses
this question. Adobe technical support document: 325875
me, if you are still having
problems. If all else fails, I will email the form(s) to
Q: Aren't you afraid that supplying this
information at your website will help your competitors?
A: No. We want to help the entire construction industry, including
the ceiling guys. We truly believe that the more support available
to the contractor, the better the industry as a whole. We
will never be able to entirely rid the construction industry
of cheaters, but if we can make it easier for a contractor
to be legit than to not be legit maybe we can cause some of
those *less than honest players* to cross back over the line
and join those of us who play fair. Please understand that
we are not attempting to put ourselves on a pedestal, we are
just tired of the general contractors who take advantage of
subcontractors and the subcontractors who cheat the good guys
out of jobs with intentionally bad bids.
Q: Why do the webpages disappear off of
the right side of my screen? I have to scroll to the right
to see the entire page.
A: No problem! What you want to do is change the screen resolution.
For Macintosh users, open the Monitors Control Panel to increase
the resolution (which will decrease the size of the windows,
images, text, etc. on your screen). For Windows users, open
the display control panels, click the Settings tab and move
the Screen Area slider to the right. For those of you who
cannot change the screen resolution, take heart cause there
is a solution for you too! Click open your browser's View
menu and choose a smaller text. You can also use the Preferences
and/or Internet Options dialog box to change typeface and
Q. For how many years should we save our
job folders and information?
A. My understanding of how long to keep documents is that
various documents require various lengths of time, based upon
statute of limitations, for example receipts for business
expenses would need to be kept at least long enough until
you are out of the IRS 'auditable' time frame, which is usually
Using that theory, my suggestion would be that you keep your
records as long as you need them to protect yourself from
possible suit. Suppose you did a job five years ago and recently
the finished building sustained some kind of damage due to
If the people were to examine the building and claim that
it suffered the damage it did due to the fact that you did
not install per plans and specs, if you do not have a copy
of the plans you installed by, you might not be able to prove
that you did indeed install per plans and specs.
Sure, the owners have a copy of the plans and specs but if
it is a revision other than the revision you installed by,
then your installation might not be per that particular revision!
Another thought might be that your contract could have been
written indicating that your installation was to be different
than plans and specs, but without a copy of that contract
you cannot prove that your installation is the way it was
supposed to be.
Now, these two scenarios might be a 'reach', but we live
in a world where people sue other people all of the time.
My personal practice is to save my files (all of them) for
a minimum of ten (10) years (although after 11 years I have
yet to throw away any files).
More than once I have needed a document from past years,
and was quite thankful, after I was done sneezing from the
billowing clouds of dust stirred up, that I had saved my files!
As far as how long the statute of limitations is for someone
to come back and sue you for your work, the consensus here
is that there probably is no concrete statute of limitations,
as people can almost always find a loophole if they are determined
Below are a couple of links at the IRS website which should
lead to information on storage times for some tax and business
Here is a link to the CSLB <http://www.cslb.ca.gov/>
although I strongly suggest that you double check any answers
that the CSLB gives you. There have been times when they have
been very wrong in their answers to me.
Here is a legal resource link where you might find some information,
I am not a lawyer nor do I give legal advice.
on 8/17/01 10:57 AM, Gary Kuznitz, a homeowner, wrote:
I have been looking every place for a form. I thought maybe
you would know where I could find it. It's a Mechanic's Lien
(waiver) form for California. It's a form I as a home owner
can have the workers sign before a job is started to protect
me. To make sure that when I pay the contractor I will not
be liable for the contractor paying the sub-contractors. It
would be really great if you could help me find that form.
Thanks a bunch
Thank you for visiting my website and giving me a chance to
answer your question. There are so many different ways that
a project can be handled, and how your project is being run
can make a difference in how you handle the paperwork and
Okay, let's see, first thing is that the guys won't sign a
lien waiver form until they have been paid.
What happens is that the contractors will mail to you what
is usually termed a California 20-Day Preliminary Notice.
Each material supplier and independent contractor, (not including
the general contractor nor any employees of any involved entity),
is required to certify mail this notice to you to be postmarked
not later than 20 days after the first day they provided material
and/or labor. This notice is intended to inform you as to
who is working on your property so that you know who has potential
to file a mechanic's lien on your property. You want to keep
track of these various entities and assure that they have
been paid. I have a prelim form posted at my site that they
can use to mail to you, this is the link:
When you go to this page, you will see that there are actually
two different preliminary forms listed. It is somewhat confusing
to many people, because the legislature changed the rules
in January and then went back and changed them back again
in April. So, the form I use (and my website visitors use)
is the form that you will see in the red box with the words
"This is the one that my attorney told me to use.".
Now comes the fun part.... Each and every time you receive
an invoice from an entity, you should also require a lien
release from that entity. If they are done 100% and are billing
you for 100%, then they need to use the release known as the
"California Conditional Waiver and Release Upon Final
Payment", which you can obtain here:
Once they have received payment in full, they deposit your
check and wait the customary 10 days for it to clear (or check
with your bank in about 3 to 5 days to see if it has cleared
through your account), and then they provide you with the
release that you were asking about. This release is known
as the "California Unconditional Waiver and Release Upon
Final Payment", which you can obtain here:
I would be surprised if you can get someone to provide you
with this Final Payment release before they have been paid.
The thing to realize is that when that contractor/worker signs
that form, he is giving up all rights to claims on your property,
even if your check ends up not clearing. That is why I say
that they will not want to sign a lien waiver until after
they have been paid, not before they start the job (whether
they are workers, contractors or material suppliers).
If they are only partially done and are submitting a bill
for a portion of the monies, then they need to use the "California
Conditional Waiver and Release Upon Progress Payment",
which you can obtain here:
Once they have received that partial payment, they deposit
your check and wait the customary 10 days for it to clear
(or check with your bank in about 3 to 5 days to see if it
has cleared through your account), and then they provide you
with another release. This release is known as the "California
Unconditional Waiver and Release Upon Progress Payment",
which you can obtain here:
Now, technically, if a person or entity does not mail you
a 20-Day preliminary notice within their 20 day time frame,
then they are supposed to not be able to file a lien for that
particular time frame. This is how it works: If a person/entity
mails (certified) his preliminary notice anytime within the
1st day and the 20th day of having started work and/or provided
materials, then his rights to payment are protected for the
entire job. If he slips up and doesn't mail you his preliminary
notice until 26 days after he started the job/provided material,
then the first six days are not covered. The 20-day preliminary
notice covers only up to 20 days prior to the postmark through
the end of the project. If the person did not mail you his
preliminary notice until 32 days into his portion of the project
then technically he has not legally protected his rights to
payment for the first 12 days on the job. Even though this
is technically the law, don't rely on it to protect your own
rights. You need to make sure that you are aware of every
person and company that is doing work on your property, whether
or not they have mailed a preliminary notice to you.
The next step is to verify the releases when you receive them.
I know a general contractor who did not verify the releases
that his subcontractor provided him (supposedly from his material
supplier) and it ended up turning out that the subcontractor
had forged the signatures on the release and forged the signatures
on the back of the joint check. That's the other thing I need
to tell you about is joint checks. Anyhow, the subcontractor
skipped town and the general contractor ended up having to
pay for the material twice, first to the guy who kept the
money and second to the material supplier.
About joint checks: if you are paying the contractor and the
contractor is paying the subcontractor/supplier, you can make
the check out joint so that the contractor is forced to pay
the subcontractor/supplier before he pays himself (he probably
won't like it, most don't, but it is a perfectly acceptable
way to conduct business). The only thing to watch out for
is what I mentioned earlier about forged checks. Don't just
accept the releases at face value, if you are uncomfortable.
Remember those California 20-day Preliminary Notices? Call
the people/entities that sent you those notices and verify
that they have indeed been paid, and that the checks have
cleared the accounts.
As far as workers are concerned, the only way you will know
if all workers have been paid is if all workers have mailed
you a preliminary notice. If even one worker does not mail
you a preliminary notice, then you are unable to know if that
person has been paid or not. If you don't know that he's on
the job, then you won't know that he should be on your list,
hence you won't be able to verify whether or not he has been
paid. You can require time cards on a daily and/or weekly
basis and you can require certified payroll reports, with
contact information of all those who worked on the job, but
there again you won't know if everyone is listed unless you
are there taking names yourself. You can also require that
every worker sign the release that belongs to his employer,
indicating that he has been paid. Make sure you ask for their
contact information also. You might even want to let your
contractor know that you will be verifying stuff like this
throughout the project, to help keep him honest.
Many, many contractors out there are good, honest business
owners and operators, but there are some very bad licensed
ones and even worse non-licensed ones. There is an organization
designed to protect the consumer, named "Contractor's
State License Board" and they are the ones that regulate
our licenses and whether or not we are in good standing, bad
standing, revoked, etc. Their website is: http://www.cslb.ca.gov.
You can verify your contractor's license there as well as
his subcontractors licenses and learn much more about how
to work with your contractor for a successful job. One thing
I ask is that when and if you visit the CSLB website, that
you send them a quick email letting them know that I sent
you their way. A couple of them up there are trying to get
my site listed as a helpful site but they need to see emails
from people letting them know that my site is useful.
Please let me know if I have (or have not) answered your question
for you. While you going through the various stages of your
project, please feel free to contact me at any time, should
you have any more questions.
I hope that I have been able to answer your questions
for you. If not, please email me.
Found your website very helpful and easy to understand.
Thank you very much! :)
My question for you is:
General applause for your site... I took over the funding
coordinator position at our family construction company. We
act as general contractor on our own projects and hire out
all the work to subs. I was trained briefly by the person
doing the job before me but now see that I was never properly
trained on the use of all four release forms just two. In
addition, I have subs asking me how to fill them out. (I plan
on directing them to your site for information by the way.)
Your explanation of releases is the best I've gotten yet in
the past few months I've been doing this job and I've asked
many people who should know. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you again! Youve got me grinning from ear to ear.
Question 1... I have subs using the unconditional release
upon progress payment for a material release. I didn't see
that covered in your articles. What release do you normally
get from your material supplier when you submit an invoice
for payment? My boss wants to see a material release showing
either "zero" due to the supplier or the amount
the supplier expects to be paid "joint with" out
of the invoice. What release would that be?
It can be any of them, it all depends on the status of the
Say youve got a sub whose work spans January thru March,
and hes billing you on a monthly basis. The supplier
supplies material in January and February. When invoicing
for the month of January, the subcontractor will supply you
with a #1 (conditional waiver and release upon progress payment)
from him for the total amount hes billing for through
January 31 and a #1 (same #1 that the sub uses) release from
his supplier which shows the dollar amount of material the
supplier supplied to the job through January 31.
When you pay the sub, if doing joint checks you have two options.
You can make a joint check for the amount of the material
and then a non-joint check for the balance of the invoice
OR you can write one check for the entire amount of the invoice
and make it joint.
As a side note, we are subcontractors and receiving a payment
where the entire check is joint is a huge pain. When we first
started out I think that joint checks was still a relatively
new concept because all general contractors wrote one check
for the entire amount of the invoice joint. But through the
years weve seen more and more generals writing two checks,
one joint and the balance to the sub. If your sub has more
than one supplier then youll cut more checks, a joint
check for each supplier and one not joint that makes up the
When you pay the sub for his invoice hell sign over
the joint check to his supplier and get a #2 (unconditional
waiver and release upon progress payment) release from them,
showing the $ amount they were paid. The sub will give you
his suppliers release as well as one from himself showing
the full amount of the payment received, including the joint
check to his supplier.
When the sub invoices for the month of February hell
give you another #1 release but his supplier will give you
a #3 (conditional waiver and release upon final payment) release
which shows the dollar amount of material the supplier supplied
to the job through February 28. The supplier gives a #3 release
because they supplied their last amount of material in February
and will not be supplying any more material to the job. [If
the supplier would be supplying material in March then it
would issue you a #1 release instead of a #3 release.]
When you pay the sub for his invoice hell again sign
over the joint check and obtain a release but this time itll
be a #4 (unconditional waiver and release upon final payment)
release, releasing the entire project and waiving all mechanics
lien rights. The sub will again supply you with a #2 release,
showing the full amount of the payment received including
the joint check to his supplier.
When the sub invoices for the month of March hell give
you a #3 release (same #3 the supplier uses) showing the balance
owing on the project. When hes paid hell issue
you a #4 release (same #4 the supplier uses). The release
forms used by the sub are the same release forms the supplier
Question 2... Also, I've never had anyone ask me to sign an
agreement for joint check but was trained to look for payments
due listed on the material suppliers release and issue joint
check when asked for. As a general contractor, are we required
to get a material release from all subs or maybe only those
who list a supplier on the Preliminary? I do not get a preliminary
from all my subs so I don't know how I would know who has
an arrangement with their material supplier especially since
I have yet to be asked to sign a "joint with" agreement.
Perhaps I should be asking for that too? I'm so confused.
Can you clear the fog for me?
If the material supplier wishes to retain mechanics
lien rights then the material supplier must do the preliminary
notice same as the subcontractor. It
doesnt matter whether or not the sub tells you who his
suppliers are, if the supplier wants mechanics lien
rights then the supplier has to do the preliminary notice.
Question 3... My other problem is this. The more I read the
more I realize how much I do not know. I need a crash course
on what I am supposed to be doing legally in regards to paying
our contracts according to the law. Aside from your site (which
I realize does not constitute legal advice :O) where would
you recommend I go to get information I can understand regarding
my obligations as a general contractor?
I know an attorney in or near Sacramento who is also a construction
consultant. Hes helped many people from my site and
you are more than welcome to contact him. Make sure you mention
me/my site :)
Capital Project Solutions
You can also go to the CSLB website http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
to read about your legal obligations. Theyve got the
entire contractors law book posted online for free access.
Something to be cautious about, you may want to verify your
releases by calling the suppliers. There was a case of a subcontractor
that forged his suppliers endorsement on the joint check
and forged their signature on the release forms. The general
contractor accepted the paperwork as is never thinking that
something like that was going on. The sub then left town.
The material supplier contacted the general to inquire about
payment and thats when the flag was raised that there
was a problem. In the end the general had to pay the supplier
again to keep the owners property free of any mechanics
liens. To date they still havent been able to chase
down the bad sub. Its a horrible story but true.
I hope that this info helps you Linda! Thank you for giving
me some good questions for my FAQ page!!
Have a great afternoon and should you ever have any questions
please do not hesitate to contact me!
If you haven't yet subscribed to my free newsletter, now's
a good time... :) You can unsubscribe at any time, but I hope
you don't! Follow this link:
Have a great day!! Di-
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 15:10:41 EST
Subject: Questions - I need help!