Got an email regarding mechanics liens and unfortunately the email they provided me to respond was incorrect so I’ll answer it here. But first the question:

As part of my kitchen remodel project, I purchased maple kitchen cabinets from a kitchen & appliance store in Burlingame, CA two years ago. I had my contractor install the cabinets. After installation, we discovered that the outside panel of the pantry came unfinished and wasn’t maple but birch (it actually should have been the inside panel of the pantry that isn’t seen). After going through several different unsatisfactory scenarios to try and correct the problem, the kitchen & supply store hired a wood refinisher to put a veneer on the unfinished panel and stain it. The work was completed approximately 3 months ago. Yesterday i n the mail I received a letter from the wood finisher stating that because the kitchen & supply store had failed to pay the invoice, he was demanding payment from me and he will place a lien against my property if I don’t pay it. I have discovered that the kitchen & supply store is going out of business and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is also filing bankruptcy. My question is this, given the fact that I did contract with this person to do the work, am I liable to pay the outstanding invoice that was sent to the kitchen & appliance store?

If you have a direct contractual agreement with the wood finisher, he has 90 days from the last time he was working on your project to officially record the lien with the county. If it is past that time he has lost his lien rights. Many contractors get sloppy with these time lines and often miss them but threaten anyway. They are betting you don’t know the lien laws. Anybody can file a lien but to perfect it in court the burden of proof is on him and he has to meet strict criteria to win his case. Plus he has to hire an attorney to do this and that will cost him, so he must be absolutely sure he meets the requirements of the law.

If the kitchen store hired him as a subcontractor, then he has to send you a preliminary notice within 20 days of starting work on your project in order to retain his lien rights. Again if he didn’t, he still will try to get money from you by filing a lien but he doesn’t have any stand at this point. Be sure to read the section on mechanics liens on my site as well as the CSLB site.

Check your time line on when he was last on the property. If it is past the 90 days, he doesn’t have a solid case. You can wait for the lien to become null and void and then petition the courts to have it removed. You can also consult with an attorney who specializes in construction law who can counsel you further.