Can Unlicensed Contractors Lien in California?

In California, like in every state, those who perform labor or provide materials to a construction project obtain a right to lien the property.  In fact, this lien right is even built into the California constitution.

However, every state’s lien laws has complex requirements.   A question that is frequently asked is whether an unlicensed contractor has the right to file a construction or mechanics lien.

Of course, the answer to this question varies state-by-state.  Further, one must remember that in most states, the fact that a person is unlicensed is not necessarily controlling as licenses are not required in every situation.

As it regards the state of California, the question was discussed in a legal column of  Gary Redenbacher says:

But what about unlicensed contractors? By law, unlicensed contractors are not entitled to be paid – period – for anything. Even if they do a perfect job and put $300,000 of materials into your home, they will be thrown out of court if they sue to get paid. Since unlicensed contractors cannot turn to the law to be paid, any lien they record is a false lien.

Contracting without a license is a misdemeanor. Recording a false lien in an attempt to get paid might just jump an unlicensed contractor from the frying pan into the fire.

One of the most critical mistakes any contractor can make when filing a construction lien is not being qualified to file one at all.  In California, its pretty clear that unlicensed contractors are completely without lien rights.  Elsewhere, if you’re performing construction work without a license, you should be extra-cautious before filing a construction lien, as you may not be qualified.

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Scott Wolfe Jr

About Scott Wolfe Jr

Scott Wolfe Jr. is the CEO of zlien, a company that provides software and services to help building material supply and construction companies reduce their credit risk and default receivables through the management of mechanics lien and bond claim compliance. He is also the founding author of The Lien and Credit Journal, a leading online publication about liens, security instruments and getting paid on every account. Scott is a licensed attorney in six states with extensive experience in corporate credit management and collections law, with a specific emphasis on utilizing mechanic liens, UCC filings and other security instruments to protect and manage receivables. You can connect with him via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.