Frequently Asked Question

Do I have to use a licensed contractor on my construction project?

Yes, not only you should always use a licensed contractor but for any projects over $500 you must have a written proposal and for anything over $1,000 a written contract.

What is a mechanics lien?

A mechanics lien is a mechanism by which a contractor can assure they get paid for the work they do on a construction or design project that adds value to the property in question.

My contractor gave me a written estimate at the start of the project, but now he is billing me for more than the estimate.

The Contractor should give you a “Change Order” for any changes in the project whether you ask for it or they think it is necessary.  A  change order should specify the scope of the additional work and the price increase.  A good contract will specify that a change order has to be authorized by the owner before the contractor is entitled to proceed and ask for additional payment.

Is a verbal construction contract legally valid?

In California verbal contracts are valid. However, since people have different recollections and understandings of their agreements, we do not advise it.  Always make sure there is written evidence of any contacts. Any construction contracts over $500 must be in writing. For Home Improvement Contracts, there are specific requirements and language required so a verbal contract is not recommended.

Is a construction agreement on text messaging valid?

Yes, it can be so long as all the terms are clear, the scope of work is specified and the price is also specified. For Home Improvement Contracts, there are specific requirements and language required so it is very hard to satisfy such requirements in text messages.

I’m a contractor, how can I collect money owed?

The following steps are recommended. For a general contractor who has direct contract with the owner:
1. Send a complete final invoice, with the work specified and the amount mentioned for each item of work, give them a deadline to pay

2. Make sure you make note of the last day you worked on the project.

3. Within 90 days of the last day, record a mechanics lien, and serve it on the property owner as well as who contracted with you (  may be a tenant)

4. Within 90 days of the recording of the mechanics lien, a lawsuit must be filed to foreclose on the lien or the lien will be extinguished.

For a subcontractor who only has a direct contract with a general contractor, within 20 days of the START of the project, a preliminary notice of intent to lien should be served on the owner and the general contractor, then do all the steps above.

What is the Controlling law Code §7150?

This chapter defines the legal parameters of a home improvement contractor and dictates what work they can and cannot perform.

What is the Definition of Home Improvement §7151?

This chapter defines “Home improvement” as any repair, remodel, alteration, conversion, or modernizing of a residential property. It includes construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, including spas and hot tubs, terraces, patios, awnings, storm windows, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, fallout shelters, basements, and other improvements of the structures or land.


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AlvaradoSmith APC

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Hoffman Legal Corporation

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