Short Answer: Some states require preliminary notices, others do not. In the states where preliminary notice is required, a party providing labor and/or materials must deliver a notice to certain other parties before or immediately after they begin performing work or providing materials. If the notice is required and not sent, you may lose the right to later file a lien if you are not paid.
What Types of Notices Are There? Are They Mandatory?
While the term “notice” gets used a great deal in construction circles, many contractors do not understand what is meant by “notice.” Is it a “notice of intent to lien?” Is it a pre-work “preliminary notice?” All notices are not the same, and that was the subject of a useful blog post on this Construction Lien Blog: All Notices Are Not Created Equal: Preliminary Notice v. Notice of Intent to Lien
This is a great comparison of the differences between preliminary notices (which are sent at the start of a project before any payment is overdue) and notices of intent (which are sent when you are not paid). Notices are not required in every state, and for the states that do require notices, the types of notices required a different.
A run-down of which states require notices and which do not are available on this blog here: Is Notice Required In My State? List of Notice and Non-Notice States. Remember also that our LienPilot can calculate your notice requirements based on your job information.
How Are Preliminary Notices Sent?
This is a very important question. In fact, if your state requires certain notices, and you send them but send them incorrectly, it may be just as bad as not sending them at all. Accordingly, sending the notice as required by statute is very, very important. And you guessed it: Delivery requirements are different in every state.
It’s safe to say that most states require preliminary notices be sent by certified mail, or certified mail with return receipt requested. There are some instances, however, when notices must be sent by registered mail only, by mail with restricted delivery, hand delivered by courier, and/or actually filed with the county recorder.
Just as important as delivering the notice correctly is proving that you delivered the notice. California has some pretty strict requirements in this regard, which can give you an idea of what you’ll confront in proving preliminary notice delivery elsewhere. We wrote a blog post about this here: Strict Proof of Delivery May Be Required for Construction Notices.