Preliminary Notices: Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt

Preliminary Notices: Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt
Let’s drill down on some basics here. In discussing preliminary notice topics in the past we’ve gotten into some high level details, addressing topics such as who must get notice when working on a condominium complex and how government agencies might fine you for not sending required notices. But we’ve never addressed something that is critical to every single preliminary construction notice sent around the nation: postage!

The statutes governing preliminary notices are confusing, but compliance doesn’t end there. All of these statutes presume that you know some detailed information about postage rates and the postal system. This is a primer to help you get through, or to understand exactly how your preliminary notice was sent off by zlien.

Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt

The differences between “Certified Mail” and “Certified Mail with Return Receipt” are subtle, and the two mail types are frequently confused. There is a clear difference, however.

Notices Sent By Regular Certified Mail

Preliminary Notices: Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt

When you send a construction preliminary notice by certified mail, you will stick one of these green labels on the envelope. This is the mail pieces tracking number.

Regular certified mail allows the sending party to track the delivery of a mail piece and find out exactly when and where your item was delivered (or delivery was attempted).  Each certified mail piece is assigned a tracking number, and this tracking number is scanned when the mail piece is sent out for delivery and when it is actually delivered.

You can use this tracking number to “Track and Confirm” the mailing, which means you’ll see each and every stop along the way from your post office to the recipients delivery address.

When the mail piece arrives at its destination it can only be claimed if the recipient signs for it. Certified mail, therefore, requires the recipients signature. While the signature is stored with the post office and kept on record (and available for viewing for an additional fee), the signature is not mailed back to you or provided to you as a standard practice.

Notices Sent By Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested

Preliminary Notices: Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt

When you send a construction preliminary notice by certified mail with return receipt requested, you’ll stick one of these “green cards” to the back of your letter. It will be signed by the recipient, and the signature will be returned to you.

Notices sent by certified mail with return receipt requested are different from those sent by ordinary certified mail.  The “Return Receipt Requested” service, in fact, is an additional and supplemental service that you can add to your certified mail piece.

Therefore, when sending a mailing with this service, you will still pay for the certified mail postage and you will still stick the green tracking label on your mail piece.  On the back of your mail piece, however, you’ll also add a “green card,” which is what the recipient will sign when the document is delivered.  This green card will actually be mailed back to you so you will have additional proof that your mail piece was delivered.

Remember, when you send a mail piece by certified mail without return receipt, you still have proof that it was delivered.  The tracking number will yield a delivery confirmation, a signature will have been collected, and the signature will be accessible to you for an additional fee. Getting the green card back is what we call lagniappe in Louisiana.  It’s an additional proof (a signature on a green card!).

What Is Required For Your Preliminary Notice?

That is an excellent question. So excellent, in fact, that it doesn’t have a single answer.

In some instances, you may be required to deliver preliminary notices by certified mail only.  In other instances, certified mail with return receipt requested may be required.  Other mail services — such as restricted delivery — may be required in addition to these services.

What’s more frustrating than this, is that the postage type required may differ not only project-by-project and state-by-state, but it may also differ depending on the party who is receiving it on a single project.

For example, it may be required to send preliminary notice via certified mail to one party, but certified mail with return receipt requested to another party on the same project.

All of these complications are handled by zlien when you use it to manage and send your preliminary notices.  Which is just one of the reasons why it’s smart to outsource your preliminary notice work.


Preliminary Notices: Certified Mail v. Certified Mail Return Receipt

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Scott Wolfe Jr

About Scott Wolfe Jr

Scott Wolfe Jr. is the CEO of zlien, a company that provides software and services to help building material supply and construction companies reduce their credit risk and default receivables through the management of mechanics lien and bond claim compliance. He is also the founding author of The Lien and Credit Journal, a leading online publication about liens, security instruments and getting paid on every account. Scott is a licensed attorney in six states with extensive experience in corporate credit management and collections law, with a specific emphasis on utilizing mechanic liens, UCC filings and other security instruments to protect and manage receivables. You can connect with him via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.