Many states require preliminary notices to be sent at the beginning of work to preserve a claimant’s future lien rights. States like California, Arizona, and Florida have these traditional notice requirements.
Alabama does have a notice requirement in order to preserve one’s lien rights, but it is not the traditional preliminary notice (there is an optional preliminary notice for material suppliers that can act to extend their lien rights). Unless you are in direct contract with the owner, you must send a Notice of Unpaid Lien before the mechanics lien can be filed.
Notice of Unpaid Lien
Unpaid parties on a construction project looking to file a mechanics lien are required to send a Notice of Unpaid Lien prior to filing the lien. This notice is required to be sent the property owner (or their agent), and can be sent to anyone up the chain from the claimant. The Notice of Unpaid Lien acts as a notice of intent to lien, letting the property owner know that you are owed money for performing work or providing materials to the project, and will file a lien if not compensated.
When to Send the Notice of Unpaid Lien
Alabama statute is lenient on when to send the Notice of Unpaid Balance, with the only guideline being that the notice be sent prior to the lien being filed. The Notice of Unpaid Lien obligates the owner to withhold dispersing funds sufficient to satisfy your claim, so it is best to send this before the funds have been distributed, clearly. Therefore, the earlier it is sent, the better chance the owner will receive it before funds are disbursed to the direct contractor.
However, if you wait until the last minute, you have to remember that the Notice of Unpaid Lien still needs to be sent prior to the lien filing. If the Notice of Unpaid Lien is not sent prior to the lien being filed, it may invalidate the lien itself. The deadline to file a lien for those not in direct contract with the property owner is 4 months after the last date labor or materials were last delivered. Therefore, the notice must be sent before this 4 month period. It is best practice to send at least a week before you plan on filing the lien itself, and it is always smart to start the lien filing process a few weeks before the deadline.