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By Contractors For Contractors!
  You've got questions, we've got answers... :)

Please note that this page is under connstruction.....

As I've mentioned elsewhere through this site, construction projects are often mired in paperwork, and the legalites involved seem to be constantly changing.

This page contains answers to some frequently asked questions. Our free newsletter carries info about new articles that have been added here, so don't forget to subscribe!

Now for the legal mumbo-jumbo: Please note that these answers are written based upon actual experiences and should not be looked upon as specific legal advice.

Have a great day and should you have any questions at all, do contact me!

Frequently Asked Questions

* Why 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 your competitors?
* Why do the webpages disappear off of the right side of my computer screen?
* 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 paid.

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 open. Why?
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
Please e-mail me, if you are still having problems. If all else fails, I will email the form(s) to you. :)

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 size.

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 several years.

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 whatever.

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 enough.

Below are a couple of links at the IRS website which should lead to information on storage times for some tax and business documents.


Here is a link to the CSLB <> 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
Gary Kuznitz
Hi Gary!
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 verifications, etc.
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: 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.
Take care!
Diane Dennis
 I hope that I have been able to answer your questions for you. If not, please email me.


Hi Linda!
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! You’ve 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 material deliveries.
Say you’ve got a sub whose work spans January thru March, and he’s 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 he’s 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 we’ve 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 you’ll cut more checks, a joint check for each supplier and one not joint that makes up the balance.
When you pay the sub for his invoice he’ll 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 supplier’s 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 he’ll 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 he’ll again sign over the joint check and obtain a release but this time it’ll be a #4 (unconditional waiver and release upon final payment) release, releasing the entire project and waiving all mechanic’s 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 he’ll give you a #3 release (same #3 the supplier uses) showing the balance owing on the project. When he’s paid he’ll issue you a #4 release (same #4 the supplier uses). The release forms used by the sub are the same release forms the supplier uses.
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 mechanic’s lien rights then the material supplier must do the preliminary notice same as the subcontractor. It doesn’t matter whether or not the sub tells you who his suppliers are, if the supplier wants mechanic’s 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. He’s helped many people from my site and you are more than welcome to contact him. Make sure you mention me/my site :)
Doug Harding
Capital Project Solutions
You can also go to the CSLB website to read about your legal obligations. They’ve got the entire contractor’s 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 supplier’s 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 that’s when the flag was raised that there was a problem. In the end the general had to pay the supplier again to keep the owner’s property free of any mechanic’s liens. To date they still haven’t been able to chase down the bad sub. It’s 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!
Take care,
Diane Dennis
(why no phone)
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:
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Have a great day!! Di-
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 15:10:41 EST
Subject: Questions - I need help!



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A-1-131 Public Works Payroll Reporting Form for California | Bid Proposal Templates | Change Order Forms | Employer Forms | E-Book: Get Paid! | Invoice Forms | Job Applications | Joint Check Agreements | Letter Of Transmittal | Mechanic's Lien Forms | Miscellaneous Construction Forms | Notice Of Completion | Notice Of Non-Responsibility | Payroll Forms & Reports (Inc. Certified) | Preliminary Notice To Owner | Lien Waiver Forms aka Lien Release Forms | Spanish-Language Forms | Stop Notice Forms | Warranty Forms | WH-347 Federal Certified Payroll Form for Davis-Bacon projects | California Contractor License Practice Exams

By Diane Dennis

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