By Pat in San Diego, CA on 3/19/2008
Yes. A general contractor or contractor hired directly by the owner does not need to furnish preliminary notice and can still file. California Business and Professions Code however, does require that contracts for construction of single-family homes be in "writing" and "signed". It doesn't prevent that he can file. Anyone can file a lien, which is so aggravating. I had a sub who filed a lien on the house adjacent to my client's house by accident and he just left it on. You would have to pursue the avenue of having the lien expunged and then there are legal fees that you can recover up to $2,500.
Contractors State License Board will come down on him because they do require contracts be written, and it is easy to file a complaint with the license board: cslb.ca.gov. The license board also requires certain notifications be provided along with the written contract. Notice of Lien Rights is one of them. If that was not provided it is a violation.
Contracts in general in CA are not required to be written. Oral contracts in general are fully enforceable. The primary reason written contracts come into play in trades such as construction, is so that everyone is sure the homeowner is aware of the terms and scope, since the result of unclear things leave the potential for their own homes to be subject to lien. That is a big deal when it is your home.
However, even when there is not a written contract, a contractor can claim error or some other reason and still be able to sue for "reasonable value."
If he filed a lien, I would certainly proceed to have it expunged and threaten legal fee allowance.