By Diane Dennis
Even though we all expect to be paid for our work, and yes on time, unfortunately there are times when that doesn't happen.
These are the times that these prelim documents are most important - walking around muttering #*$%&, while it might 'feel good', won't get you paid... (been there done that myself)
The main purpose of these documents is to announce that you and your company are present and that you have a financial interest in the property.
Even though your General/Direct Contractor (GC/DC) knows that you are involved on the project, his customer (presumably the owner of the property) may not know.
It's your legal responsibility to tell the Owner (and the rest of the financially interested parties) that you have a claim on this property, by processing the California 20 day Preliminary Notice form (or the preliminary notice form for your state).
If you don't, chances are you're screwed. :(
You've finished the job, and your general contractor is refusing to pay you. After you've gone to court and you've won your judgment against the GC, who is going to make sure that you get paid?
Don't look at the judge, he's a judge, not a bill collector. Sure he ruled in your favor, maybe even awarded you more than what you were asking for (hah!), but he's not going to reach into the GC's checking account to get your money for you.
Don't look at the GC yourself, he didn't want to pay you to begin with, remember? He's not going to write you a check, not if the judge doesn't make him do it.
Well..., not a good check anyway. You see, he knows what you now know, the judge isn't going to reach into his checking account and get your money for you.
So... now you're back to where you were before you went to court (except that, in addition to still not being paid, now you're in debt to your attorney), the GC/DC still owes you and he still won't pay you! What to do ??
Short of a broken knee cap or two (there have been times when I've wished I could do that - especially to a major sub-buster in Victorville, CA) ;) about the only thing you can do is file a lien on the property you did the work on.
only if you processed your
Filing a mechanic's lien without having done a valid preliminary lien notice makes for a fraudulent mechanic's lien, and fraudulent mechanic's liens are a punishable offense in some cases.
The individual states' requirements typically must be followed pretty much to the letter; courts don't appreciate it when legal forms are not processed correctly and on time.