Homeowner Risks Foreclosure Over A Couple Thousand Dollars

Ricardo worked at a few properties for a subcontractor. He toiled for hours on cabinetry in a TV & sound room at one home and improving kitchen fixtures at another.

Although Ricardo was shorted hours on all jobs for this subcontractor, he was treated well and paid on time, so he continued working.

Ricardo is married with 3 daughters, and although his wife works, their combined $28,000 annual salary is stretched thin across rent, food and clothing. He couldn’t afford to rock the boat by demanding to be paid for all his hours and to take all his meal & rest breaks.

Assuming the bounced check was a clerical error, Ricardo contacted the subcontractor, explained what happened and politely requested a new check. However, the subcontractor refused to pay Ricardo and soon stopped returning his calls.

At that point, Ricardo contacted Wage Justice and we evaluated his claim for the bounced check. We also analyzed the back hours that weren’t paid and the denied meal & rest breaks. We determined that work on two of the many properties met all the criteria for a Mechanic’s Lien, and we recorded Mechanic’s Liens on these two properties. Our Liens included all hours worked and unpaid, as well as the meal & rest break penalties and the bounced check payment.

Because the fees for Mechanic’s Liens spiked this year, we wrapped in the $360 in recording fees into our wage demand. The Wage Justice Center paid for the initial recording fees ($95/property to initially record and again $95/property to remove the Lien).

Shortly after we recorded the Liens, the General Contractor on the Venice property contacted our legal team and took responsibility. He is licensed and he employed the subcontractor who hired Ricardo. He shared that he had been contacted by the angry homeowner about the Lien and he’d addressed it with the subcontractor, who had admitted to not paying Ricardo. At all times, the General Contractor was respectful of Ricardo’s work and – unlike many licensed and unlicensed contractors – he did not dispute that Ricardo completed the work, he did not disparage the quality of Ricardo’s work and he did not question the immigration status of the worker.

We appreciated this General Contractor’s respect and diligence. Because of this General Contractor’s adherence and respect for the law, ​Ricardo quickly recovered his wages from that job.

Unfortunately, the Hancock Park homeowner initially refused to pay, forcing us to file a new and separate foreclosure lawsuit 90 days after the original Lien was recorded. He subsequently engaged his attorney, who advised on unrelated issues, who worked hard to impress upon his client that, in fact, he would be forced to sell his home over approximately $2,000. After weeks of fruitful negotiations with the homeowner and their attorney, we recovered Ricardo’s back wages.

Unfortunately, the recalcitrance of the Hancock Park homeowner is not an aberration. In the last year, we’ve seen a spike by 75% of homeowners refusing to pay within 90 days of the recording of the Lien. We believe in this era of emboldened property owners, that people are willing to take their chances and draw out the legal process in order to evade their responsibility and payment.

Wage Justice is not deterred by these stall tactics. We’re pursuing economic justice for all our clients, no matter how much work it takes!