Can I go to Small Claims Court to pay less than what I owe a contractor in California?

Can I go to Small Claims Court to pay less than what I owe a contractor in California? I terminated a bath remodel contract after the licensed GC made several costly mistakes. The last was our discovery of the shower plumbing not done to CA code. We went from a bath/shower to a shower stall, which requires a drain move. We’ve paid him 3/4 of the contract, but now have to hire someone to finish the remodel and redo the shower plumbing. We also discovered he did not pull permits for any of the work. We offered to pay the remaining amount owed after the remodel is done by someone else, and plumbing fixed. He refused. He has sent a Cert. letter with a Mechanic’s Lien notice, a new invoice for more monies he feels we owe him, and a promise to take us to small claims court. I have filed a complaint with the CSLB regarding all his mistakes but have not heard back yet.

Response:
You should obtain estimates of the cost to complete the work correctly. If he sues in Small Claims Court, you should file a counter claim for the amount of the estimates. You might want to send him a letter enclosing the estimates and demanding that he pay the amount of the difference between the balance owed on the contract and the cost of properly completing the work.

If he files a lien, he must file suit in Superior Court (not Small Claims Court) to foreclose the lien within 90 days of its recording, or the lien becomes void. You may then petition the Court to remove the lien and recover your reasonable attorneys fees and costs. Good luck!

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