Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in California

If I have filed a mechanics lien against my landlord for work done at the property where I live and then 9 days later the landlord starts eviction action against me, is this legal. I've heard that once I filed a mechanics lien on the property the landlord can not do a eviction. Does the mechanics lien block out the eviction? I ask the landlord about paying me the money but was ingored the month before I filed and then the next month I didn't pay the rent but told the landlord I would deduct the rent off the amount owed to me. I've been served and filed my answer.

Asked on 9/16/10, 10:01 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

David Gibbs The Gibbs Law Firm, APC

You can raise the defense of retaliatory eviction, however, you'll need to be able to prove to a judge that the sole reason for the landlord's actions was the filing of the mechanic's lien. If you worked for the landlord as a licensed contractor (which would be the only legitimate means you have of filing a mechanic's lien), then that contract is separate and apart from your obligation to pay rent. You cannot mix the two, and if that is the basis for your not paying rent, you may well lose because you had no legal right to withhold rent. If, on the otherhand, you properly followed the procedures for "repair & deduct" to your own unit (you need to review the law on this to be sure you sent all the proper notices, and gave the landlord the required time to make the repairs), to correct conditions which rendered your apartment uninhabitable, then you may be successful in asserting retaliatory eviction as a defense. Ultimately, it's up to a judge, and you need to do your best to provide evidence that you complied with the terms of your lease, and were not in default, and that the sole reason for the eviction is the landlord's response to your mechanic's lien.

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Answered on 9/21/10, 11:58 am

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services

Just to clarify Mr. Gibbs answer, you cannot deduct from the rent and file a mechanics lien for the same debt. First, there is a great deal of law involved in the repair and deduct remedy. If you did not follow it, you will lose and be evicted for non-payment of rent. Second, if you claimed the full amount of the debt in the lien, but then withheld rent, again you are guilty of non-payment of rent, since you have the lien. Third, if you are not a licensed contractor, your mechanics lien is invalid and a slander of title, giving the landlord plenty of right to evict you.

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Answered on 9/21/10, 12:21 pm

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