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Home Improvement Laws - Protecting Both Parties

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Home Improvement Laws
Protecting Both Parties

Story courtesy of South Coast Magazine

The law protects licensed contractors as well as consumers. Consumers are afforded protection from shoddy work. If the home improvement is performed by an unlicensed person the homeowner does not have to pay them. If the work is performed by a licensed contractor but is below par then the homeowner has the option of filing a grievance with the state contractors board and/or filing a civil action. The California State Licensing Board has an arbitration program but both sides must be willing to participate. The aggrieved homeowner may file in small claims court for an amount up to $7500.00. The Limited Jurisdiction Court allows for claims up to $25,000.00. And the Unlimited Jurisdiction Court allows for all claims in excess of $25,000.00.

On the other hand when a licensed contractor has performed adequately and not been paid, the major recourse available to him is the mechanics lien. This is almost like a mortgage placed against the home, but various deadlines exist in the law that, if not met, destroys the power of such a lien. Usually the licensed contractor has 90 days from the time labor has ceased and the work of improvement is used by the owner within which to file the mechanics lien with the County Recorder's Office. However, if the homeowner has filed Notices of Completion or Cessation then the time to file the Mechanics Lien is shortened. The deadlines and/or notices relating to homeowners are as follows:

[1] Notice of Completion - Must be filed within 10 days of completion of the work and must detail out vital information about the prime contractor and the nature of the improvements. Also states the date that labor stopped. It acts to shorten the time for sub-contractors to file liens to 30 days and prime contractors to file liens within 60 days.

[2] Notice of Cessation - Along with other details this states the date that the job was finished. When this is filed it imposes the same time constraints as the Notice of Completion.

[3] Notice of Non-Responsibility - This is filed by the owner of a property when a tenant has contracted to have work performed on the home and must be filed within 10 days after the owner learns of the work.

The deadlines and/or notices relating to contractors are as follows:

[1] 20 Day Preliminary Notice - Filed by sub-contractors and material suppliers. Protects right to file liens for work performed within 20 days prior to filing.

[2] Mechanic's Lien - 30 days for subs and suppliers; 60 days for primes, but 90 days for both if owner has not filed Notices of Completion or Cessation.

[3] Stop Notice - Posted at work site warning other subs, primes, suppliers of unpaid bills with same time limits as Mechanics Lien.

[4] Lawsuit to Foreclose on the Mechanic's Lien - Must be filed within 90 days of the filing of the Mechanics Lien.

There are many other laws regulating the rights and obligations of contractors and property owners. If you have any questions please contact Joseph C. Rosenblit.

Joseph Rosenblit, Attorney at Law
31726 Rancho Viejo Rd, Suite106
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 949-248-3763

(South Coast Magazine - Spring 2007)



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