Construction Frequently
Asked Questions.

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Preliminary Notice FAQ

A California 20-day preliminary notice is a letter sent by a contractor or supplier to the property owner at the start of a construction project. In many states, a preliminary notice is required to be sent in order to secure the right to lien.

Yes, you are required to send a California 20-day preliminary notice prior to filing a mechanics lien. If this notice is not sent within the allowed period, you lose lien protection.⁴

A laborer, however, is not required to send a preliminary notice in California. Furthermore, any party that has a direct contract with the property owner is required to give this notice only to a construction lender.

A California 2o-day preliminary notice must be sent within 20 days of first furnishing labor or materials in order to avail of full protection. A lien claimant who was unable to send a 20-day notice may provide the notice at a later date. However, the lien rights will only cover materials or labor provided within the 20 days prior to sending the late notice and the labor and/or materials provided after sending.

Service of the notice is complete upon mailing, and a tracking record is enough proof that delivery has been attempted.

In California, the 20-day preliminary notice must be sent to the owner or reputed owner, the direct contractor, and the construction lender (if any).

If you don’t send a 20-day preliminary notice in California, you lose your lien rights.

Intent To File FAQ

A notice of intent to lien is sent before the filing of a mechanics lien becomes necessary. Although only a number of states require that this notice be sent, many construction participants send a notice of intent to lien as an uncostly way to have payments for invoices settled.

No, a California notice of intent to lien is not required in the lien process. However, you may opt to send one anyway as it reminds the property owner of any outstanding balance.

The general rule is to give the property owner enough time to settle the outstanding debt, usually between 10 and 30 days before you record a mechanics lien. Because the Notice of Intent to Lien is an optional pre-lien notice in California, there is no hard-and-fast deadline by which you must serve it.

You may send a California notice of intent to lien to any party in the construction project.

Not sending a notice of intent to lien in California has no bearing on your lien rights because it is not required, but it allows time for the other party to settle payment before a lien is filed.

Mechanics Lien FAQ

A California mechanics lien is an effective tool that helps make sure you will be paid for the construction materials and/or labor you supplied. It is a security interest that guarantees payment for contractors.

This means that if you file a valid mechanics lien on a project you worked on and weren’t paid for your work, you have the right to enforce the lien through a lawsuit. This enforcement action can either prompt the client to settle or force the sale of the property. The proceeds of the sale will be used to settle your unpaid bill.

With a California mechanics lien, you have an interest in the improved property. When a mechanics lien is filed on the property you worked on, the property becomes collateral for uncollected payments.

Direct contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment lessors, laborers, design professionals, and any individual who provided work for a site improvement can file a mechanics lien in California.¹

In California, a general contractor must file a mechanics lien after completion of the direct contract, and before either 90 days after completion of the work of improvement or 60 days after the owner records a notice of completion or cessation, whichever is earlier.²

A claimant who is not a general contractor must record a mechanics lien after the claimant stops providing work, and before either 90 days after the completion of the work of improvement or 30 days after the owner records a Notice of Completion or Cessation, whichever is earlier.

It is required in California to enforce a mechanics lien within 90 days of recording it. If this 90-day period lapses without the claimant taking action to enforce the lien, it expires.³

However, if the claimant and the property owner agree to extend credit according to state law, then the time to enforce the lien is extended too. But this extension should not go beyond a year since work completion.

The following are the requirements when filing a California mechanics lien.

  • A statement of the claimant’s demand 
  • A statement of the work provided by the claimant
  • The name of the property owner
  • The name of the person who employed the claimant
  • The exact address of the work site, including a detailed description
  • The address of the claimant
  • A proof of service affidavit completed and signed by the person serving the lien. The following information must be included in the affidavit:
    • The date, place, and type of work provided.
    • Facts that support the claim that work was supplied
    • The name, address, and title of the recipient of the lien
    • Lien delivery method, including the tracking number.
  • A statutorily mandated statement printed in 10-point boldface type.
    • The last sentence must be printed in uppercase, except the website address of the California Contractors’ State License Board, which shall remain in lowercase type.

Yes, you need to have a relevant and valid license for the specific work that you provided in order to file a mechanics lien in California.

Construction managers, however, may not be required to hold a license in order to file a mechanics lien.

Yes, California requires parties to use legislatively designed lien waiver forms. Furthermore, California state law does not allow contractors and suppliers to waive their lien rights in contract.

It may be required to cancel a mechanics lien in California when the claim has been satisfied. It is not clear how long after satisfaction that a mechanics lien should be released.

Pay-if-paid clauses are not enforceable in California by statute and case law.


¹ California Civil Code Section 8400-8424

² California Civil Code Section 8410-8404

³ California Civil Code Section 8460-8470

California Civil Code Section 8200-8216 provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to contractors and others who are seeking information regarding preliminary notices, intent to file, mechanics lien, and other construction questions. These are provided for informational purposes only, and we cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.

California documents

Intent to File

Show you’re serious about filing a mechanics lien without having to pay filing fees.

Mechanics Lien

Still chasing payments on a construction project? File a Mechanics Lien on the project to recoup unpaid labor and materials.

Preliminary Notice

Secure rights to file a lien and notify parties you’re on the job. Not filing a preliminary notice may result in lost revenue in case of a delinquent client.

Release of Mechanics Lien

Finally got paid? Issue a release of mechanics lien to resolve the payment dispute with finality.

Stop Payment Notice

Send a Stop Notice is a demand to ensure that payments rightfully due to subcontractors are reserved if the Prime Contractor fails to pay.


Waivers release your right to file a mechanics lien in case of non-payment. Some have conditions so ensure you're sending the correct lien waiver type.