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Design Professional Liens Attorney in Los Angeles, California

If you work as an architect, land surveyor, or engineer, there are specific legal safeguards in place to ensure your contracts are honored and that you’re able to protect your best interests. These are notably different from options available to others who may work in the construction industry due to the unique nature of the work. The work performed by these professionals occurs before any actual construction is started (in fact, it’s necessary to complete this first), and because of this, you may have fewer avenues of recourse if you’re not properly compensated for your design work.  

These liens can be difficult to explain and implement, which is why it’s always a good idea to reach out to a design professional liens attorney who can work with you directly to ensure you’re going through the process correctly. For help in Los Angeles, California, or throughout Riverside, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties, call us at Builders Law Group, Inc.  

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What Is a Design Professional Lien?  

A design professional lien is a tool architects, land surveyors, and engineers can use to guarantee payment for contracted work. Essentially, a lien can be placed against the landowner’s property until the contract is satisfied. 

What Can Be Included in the Lien?  

In your lien, you can include the agreed-upon fees for your design services for the improvement of the property in question or the reasonable value of those services. If your client made any prepayments or deposits on your work, these must be subtracted from the total amount listed on the lien. 

Process of Filing  

Importantly, a design professional lien must be filed before any work has commenced (if construction has begun, you may be able to record a mechanic’s lien). This should be done in the same county that the property is in of the landowner you contracted with. The lien will then be effective until you’ve filed a suit to enforce it within 90 days from the date you recorded it, or when the contracted improvement work commences. 

How to Qualify  

You must meet three basic criteria in order to use a lien like this. First, the party you’ve contracted with (namely the landowner) must have failed to pay you for your design works per the terms of your written contract. Second, you’ve mailed the landowner a demand for payment letter at least 10 days or more after it was due. And third, you recorded a notice of the lien with the county recorder where the property is located at the same time.   

Statute of Limitations  

In most cases, a lien must be recorded with the county within 90 days of the date you realized the improvement work was not going to commence. 

Mechanical Liens vs. Design Professional Liens  

Many people confuse a mechanic’s lien with a design professional lien, and admittedly, the two are very similar in the way they’re structured and their purpose. However, they differ in a few key ways, and understanding this can help you determine who needs a design professional lien and who should use a mechanic’s lien: 

  • A mechanic’s lien can be used by a wider variety of professionals whereas a design professional lien can only be used by architects, engineers, and land surveyors. A mechanic’s lien can be used by any number of individuals as long as they’ve entered into a contract to provide materials or services on someone else’s property.  

  • The other crucial difference lies in the timing of the two liens. A design professional lien must be recorded before any work takes place whereas a mechanic’s lien can be recorded after work has already taken place. For those professionals who’ve failed to file a lien before the contracted work began, you may be able to work with your construction law attorney to file a mechanic’s lien in its place. Additionally, it’s also possible to convert a design professional lien into a mechanic’s lien if construction commenced after the first lien was in place. 

How an Attorney Can Help 

Understandably, you went into the design profession due to your skills in that field and not in the realm of litigation. When you contract with a client, you shouldn’t be concerned about whether they’re going to pay you for your work. And, if they do decide to withhold payment, you likely won’t know what kind of legal actions you can take to protect yourself.  

Working with an experienced lawyer can ease this burden and allow you to focus on what you do best—design. Your attorney can ensure you have all relevant supporting documentation, that you’re following all guidelines and are staying within the statute of limitations, and help you communicate with the county courthouse and your client whenever needed.  

Design Professional Liens Attorney in Los Angeles, California

For legal help answering the question, “What are design professional liens and how can I use them to my benefit?”, reach out to our team at Builders Law Group, Inc, serving those in and around Los Angeles, California.