OT: Mechanics lien

User Forum Topic
Submitted by treehugger on August 1, 2013 - 1:42pm

So we finished our pool in February. Pool builder was responsible for pool care for 30 days. Pool builder brought in pool service company, which he paid for first 30 days.

Pool service company keeps coming. My husband decides ok, we probably need pool service, so sure. Kid comes to our house we know his first name. My husband talks to his boss, we know his first name. We know name of pool service company, but no business license #, last names, or physical street address.

Kid comes for a while on Thursday, we are never home, we request they come on Sat, they say not possible. We say no thank you we won't do business.

We know they came for maybe 2-3 months (never received a bill, nor do we have a contract). 2 weeks ago Thursday, I happen to be home. Am out front pulling in trash cans and see kid come out of my back yard. I am surprised and ask him what he is doing. He says he comes every week. I say, but what about the dogs. He says, no problem they are fine. I say well how do you get in, I lock the gate? He says, well I don't go in if the gate is locked, it is open today I already checked. Then I went off on him about how bad the pool looked and I have a 1/2 inch thick crusty white layer and if they have been coming they have been doing a crappy job and I had no idea they were coming and I have been interviewing pool company's and was being told I may need to drain the pool 'cause it had not been maintained.

This kid calls his boss and tells him I yelled at him. Boss call my husband, who says why are you there? We didn't even know you are still coming? Never received a bill. Boss says he sent 2 bills both were "returned to sender".

Now crazy boss is chest thumping and screaming when we try to call him. We decide to no longer answer his calls. He starts threatenting to put a mechanics lien against our property. I had never heard of mechanics lien. We contacted pool builder and requested he help out as we have never seen a bill nor do we have an address for service comp. Could pool builder get bill and address so we can get this guy to leave us alone. $550 and a po box. Fine, we think we will just pay and make this creep go away. Before we can pay he continues to call leaving voicemails and texts and within days sends a text informing us he put a mechanics lien against us and we should "enjoy."

We stop any plan to pay and I called the mortgage company. Anybody heard of this or know anything about a mechanics lien? Is this legal? I have never seen a bill? This guy is crazy and was seriously freaking me, I called cops, but they said there was nothing they could do unless he threatened us physically. We would love to go to court just so we could play the voicemails he has left.

Hoping folks on this site might have some insight or advice? We don't even know how to check to see if he did place a lien or if we will be notified? I did a bunch of on-line research, but seems like any dumbass can file a lien. It takes effort to "perfect" the lien or to make the lien go away.

Any advice or insight would be appreciated.

Submitted by burghMan on August 1, 2013 - 3:01pm.

I've never had to deal with a mechanic's lien but I've always been paranoid about them and have read up on them quite a bit. The system seems to favor the contractor over the homeowner, but the homeowner does have rights.

Start here, there's lots of other resources through google:

http://www.cslb.ca.gov/consumers/legalis...

I am not a lawyer or even a real-estate person, but IMO this pool guy really cannot file a legitimate lien against you. Of course they can still create some headache, like in any legal dispute.

Submitted by ucodegen on August 1, 2013 - 6:17pm.

Multiple things are involved here;

  • Kid comes for a while on Thursday, we are never home, we request they come on Sat, they say not possible. We say no thank you we won't do business. - After this point, if the kid comes on the property, he is trespassing/breaking and entering - all depending upon how he is getting on the property. When you saw him at your property later, you should not have complained about the service. This would indicate that you tacitly agreed to the continued implied contract despite saying otherwise earlier. You should have yelled at him about trespassing, stopped him, called his boss and called the cops with license and description - you had earlier refused service. Complaining about it now can negate your refusal of service underlines above and indicate that you did have an agreement. The locking of the gate here might help you prove that you no longer wanted service.
  • We know they came for maybe 2-3 months (never received a bill, nor do we have a contract). - This should present a problem for getting a mechanics lien. The pool service contractor needs to prove that there is a business deal.
  • Before we can pay he continues to call leaving voicemails and texts and within days sends a text informing us he put a mechanics lien against us and we should "enjoy."Check with the city if there is now a mechanics lien. It needs to be attached to the property title.

    One very important thing I have to say is be consistent on your approach, any changes in direction/intent will undermine you particularly if you have to go to court. Don't cancel service and then complain about poor service if they still go on your property (did you cancel service or didn't you?. Don't consider paying to get 'out from under' and then try to argue against the lien.(Is there cause for the lien or not?)

    *And have a book/notebook logging every contact/conversation etc - by date and time and method of contact. This is to create a journal, useful if you have to fight something.

  • Now crazy boss is chest thumping and screaming when we try to call him. We decide to no longer answer his calls.This could also help if you had logged it as it was happening. There are legal guidelines on how debts are collected.

    If a contractor puts a mechanics lien on a property illegally, they can lose their license. I also suspect that to place a mechanics lien on the property, they need a valid contractors license. Do they have a contractors license?

  • Submitted by spdrun on August 1, 2013 - 11:34pm.

    Speak to whatever little shit they send. Have someone conspicuously video tape you. Tell them that they are NOT welcome on your property and that any further contact will be treated as trespass and/or criminal harassment and that all activity on the property is being recorded. Follow it up with a registered letter stating the same thing.

    If the shits come on your property again, get it on tape -- if the cops are useless as tits on a boar, you can always speak to someone from the D.A.'s office directly and short-circuit the process of filing charges.

    Submitted by UCGal on August 2, 2013 - 12:00pm.

    Ask your pool contractor for a copy of then original contract he had with them, and proof they were paid to those terms. With that you should be able to get the lien removed.

    Have you verified a lien was filed?

    Did they ever give you a 20 day notice? If not - the lien can be removed... it allows a look back of 20 days and must be delivered to you by certified mail.

    Submitted by treehugger on August 5, 2013 - 2:44pm.

    I have nothing other than voicemails and texts. We have never met the pool service guy in person (his "independent contractor" came to our house to service the pool and I had met him once before, he seemed like a nice enough person.... if not bright?).

    How do I check to see if a lien was filed?

    The lien is not against the pool builder, it is a claim that we owe pool service company for service. Again, we knew they were coming for 2-3 months, but the days didn't work, so we declined. We did not know they continued to come nor did we ever have a written contract. We don't deny we owe them something, but we NEVER received a bill nor did we know a physical address. We were prepared to pay just to get rid of him. Pool service guy kept leaving harassing voicemails and texts and within 2 days of receiving a text reply regarding owe $550 and a po box we received text saying lien filed and to "enjoy".

    Stopped any plans to pay.

    My internet research indicates this may not be a " legitimate" claim, but could still be filed and cause a lot of pain in my a#$!! Also, seems does not require a contractors license to file.

    I spoke with my mortgage company and they were very nice (if not a bit confused over the whole thing, as am I) and put a note in my file in case anything shows up.

    Submitted by spdrun on August 5, 2013 - 3:01pm.

    Keep the voicemails for when you take the dumbass to court and/or press harassment charges with the DA.

    Submitted by UCGal on August 5, 2013 - 3:54pm.

    treehugger wrote:

    How do I check to see if a lien was filed?

    https://arcc.co.san-diego.ca.us/services...

    Look up your name.
    Look up the company's name.

    IIRC (I might be wrong on this) for a lien to be valid they have to send you a copy certified mail. If you have not gotten that, nor see anything on the county recorder's website (link above), you do NOT have a lien against you.

    (I assume you're in San Diego county- I know you were in San Marcos or Oceanside before)

    The angry guy on the phone might be bluffing entirely.

    And if has a license (check cslb.ca.gov... not sure if pool maintenance requires a license...) report all of this to the state contractors board (cslb).

    BUt if you've never received a 20 day notice aka preliminary notice, he can NOT file a lien and have it stand. And even if he files it now - it would only look back 20 days... So you wouldn't owe multiple months.

    http://www.cslb.ca.gov/consumers/legalis...

    (In our contractor nightmare we had a supplier who hadn't been paid by the general serve us a 20 day notice more than 60 days after the contractor walked off the job. We called and explained that the job site had been closed for 60 days - and we had the CSLB complaints and bond claim records to prove it. No 20 day lookback applied since it was more than 60 days. They never filed a lien.)

    Submitted by olegy on August 5, 2013 - 4:29pm.

    It the lien has been filed, it will be very difficult to remove it without a payment.
    Believe me, I know - has been dealing with such con artists a few times. By the law, only a licensed contractor has a right to file it, only if a written contract exists and only if a preliminary notice of lien has been mailed to you ( unless you directly contracted him). In practice, any ( I repeat ANY) person could file a lien on your house without ANY reason. Such a lien (as the one you probably have) will be invalid from the beginning, but it is close to impossible to remove it without $$$$ in attorney costs or actually paying it to the blackmailer.
    Unless you plan to sell or refinance your house that invalid lien will have absolutely zero effect on you.
    But when time comes to sell or refinance you have to remove it by either paying to the contractor or hiring a lawyer to expunge it by the court decree.
    The catch is - contractor can remove the lien a day before the court hearing and place a new one day after it. And you'll have to pay to your lawyer again to expunge the next one. And up to infinity.
    And good luck bringing DA to charge them with a perjury.
    The only known way to stop that insane process in to file a mechanic lien by yourself on the contractors home. It is illegal, but works.
    And if a contractor has no real estate , the last resort is to file a injunction to prevent him from placing illegal liens on your house. And it will cost you $$$$ in attorneys fees.
    Much higher than $550. I would rather just settle with him for lets say $200 or so.
    Good luck.

    Submitted by spdrun on August 5, 2013 - 4:50pm.

    If one bribes them to remove the lien, what makes you think that they won't be coming back for more anyway (since they'll see their victim as an easy mark)? If the lien wasn't justified and I had proof, I'd take the scammers to court to obtain a restraining order prohibiting them from my property and forbidding any contact or legal harassment. I'd also sue them for my time, my court costs, and my aggravation.

    I suggest that you look at court records to see if those clowns have had any legal action against them for such behavior. If they have, then it might be very easy to win a case against them -- why would you bother perpetuating a scam and feeding scammers?

    Submitted by ucodegen on August 5, 2013 - 5:43pm.

    @olegy - new account. Created and then immediately posting to this. Interesting.

    It the lien has been filed, it will be very difficult to remove it without a payment.

    Wrong. Goes to court, person filing lien has to prove that payment is owed. Part of that is the requirement that there be a contract. If lien was filed w/o any of the above, there can be a bad backlash, including potential jail time for the person filing the lien (under fraud and/or extortion). Amount may mean small-claims.

    Unless you plan to sell or refinance your house that invalid lien will have absolutely zero effect on you.

    True, but allowing the lien to stand also allows the person filing the lien to be able to demand interest. The length of time that the lien 'ages' increases the implication that the lien is valid.

    And good luck bringing DA to charge them with a perjury.

    You don't only have perjury to hit the person filing the lien. If you have the demand for payment, lack or incomplete service, service that is occurring after cancellation, threats of filing a lien - you can include extortion and/or fraud.

    The only known way to stop that insane process in to file a mechanic lien by yourself on the contractors home. It is illegal, but works.

    If the contractor is smart, he can then use this to strike back in court. Go after license & his bond.

    Submitted by CA renter on August 5, 2013 - 5:43pm.

    spdrun wrote:
    If one bribes them to remove the lien, what makes you think that they won't be coming back for more anyway (since they'll see their victim as an easy mark)? If the lien wasn't justified and I had proof, I'd take the scammers to court to obtain a restraining order prohibiting them from my property and forbidding any contact or legal harassment. I'd also sue them for my time, my court costs, and my aggravation.

    I suggest that you look at court records to see if those clowns have had any legal action against them for such behavior. If they have, then it might be very easy to win a case against them -- why would you bother perpetuating a scam and feeding scammers?

    +1,000,000

    Submitted by olegy on August 6, 2013 - 1:02am.

    ucodegen wrote:
    @olegy - new account. Created and then immediately posting to this. Interesting.

    I've been reading this forum for years. Just decided to post on the topic, which is quite painful for me.
    We rebuilt our house after the year 2007 fires and got quite a few liens, because of us been inexperienced and our lack of knowledge.
    We've been hit with a wave of fake "change orders" from one contractor, a lien from another one who even did not work on our site at all, just claimed a verbal contract - he lost hist lien claim, but won in a small claims court - with no written contract - just by hearsay.
    It is a very complicated area of the law, designed to protect contractors, not homeowners. And as I said - it is a real world example.
    Take an advice from a person who dealt with it in a real life...

    Submitted by treehugger on August 6, 2013 - 6:59am.

    Thanks for the links, this site continues to amaze!

    I looked it up and he did file a lien against us. Well against me and my apparently fictitious husband.....the house is in my name only, so he certainly got that info from the records, but he made up a last name for my husband that somehow sounded right??!!

    From that I got his company name and crossed checked and he does have a business license. Although, I still don't know this guys name.

    Agree with many of you that if I pay the guy now what guarantee do I have that he releases the lien and exits my world forever? We were on the verge of paying him what he wanted when he filed, so I definitely don't trust him.

    Also, from speaking to mortgage company and my Internet research, does seem that if I don't sell or refi this has ZERO affect on me. However, according to my internet research guy has 90 days to "perfect" the lien? I think that means if he does not follow up with a court date/law suit after 90 days the lien is invalid and I can petition county to have it removed? If he follows up and takes us to court? We pay what, the $550 plus?
    other costs? If this goes to court is it civil court (judge Judy kind of thing?) and no lawyer/jury?

    Sorry for dumb questions, my only exposure to our legal system has been through TV. Is Wapner still around, that could be fun to see Judge Judy or Wapner listen to the mean voicemails calling us all sorts of names......

    Other than the voicemails/texts and now looking it up myself, I have not been formally notified? Any suggestions on next steps? I was going to call county today to ask about?

    Submitted by spdrun on August 6, 2013 - 8:35am.

    Judge Judy and friends are not courts in the normal sense of the words -- they're mediators which look like courts; both parties have to agree in writing to such a thing.

    Not sure what CA law on trial by jury is in civil cases, but you may well be entitled to a jury trial if you so request.

    I'd seriously research whether those asshats have any history of this type of bad behavior; it might help your case and establish cause for a future malicious prosecution suit or harassment charges.

    This kind of crap needs to be nipped in the bud.

    Submitted by olegy on August 6, 2013 - 10:47am.

    Yes, the contractor has 90 days to foreclose, but he will never file, not for $550. It is a very costly process and no attorney would take that case on a contingency basis. Otherwise, the contractor will have to pay much more than $550. Plus the lien is bogus - you have nothing to afraid of. After 90 days you can file a petition to expunge the lien. In theory, you'll be entitled to up to $2000 in attorney costs, if you win and you will win, if lien is not removed by the court date. But, as I said above, if the contractor is smart enough he will remove the lien a few days before the court date, file lien release papers with the court and you'll have no case, because there will be noting to expunge. Right after the court date he'll file the lien again.
    In our case , the contractor was dumb enough to not remove the lien by the court date and we've got our $2000 in attorney costs judgment, witch we traded for the a court order, which prohibit him to place any additional liens on our house - otherwise $2000 would stand.
    If that line bothers you, settle it for less, or let 90 days to pass, ignore it and wait until you sell or refinance your house. If you do it in a few years from now, and the contractor decides to file the lien again after you removed it, you'll have better perjury case, than now.

    Submitted by spdrun on August 6, 2013 - 10:55am.

    Could re-filing the lien repeatedly be considered abuse of process, malicious prosecution, or simply harassment?

    Submitted by UCGal on August 6, 2013 - 1:13pm.

    treehugger - check your messages.

    I can help research what you need to do. It may require hiring an attorney - but it should be straightforward (so less than $200) if it's as you describe.

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