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Short Answer: No, the original California preliminary notice is effective for all work on the project, so long as the work is part of a single continuous contract.

Long Answer: A client recently contacted me about an on-going construction project that had already had a California preliminary notice sent on it. As anyone in the construction industry knows, change orders impacting the contract price and contract scope are commonplace. And, as anyone who acts as a subcontractor or supplier in California knows, California preliminary notices require you describe the labor or materials being furnished and the estimated cost of said materials and labor.

So, if a change order is issued either increasing or decreasing the contract’s scope or price…what are the supplier or subcontractor’s obligations with respect to California’s preliminary notice requirements?  Must a new California preliminary notice be sent off identifying the modified scope or price?

This circumstance is directly addressed by the civil code provision addressing California preliminary notices, Cal. Civ. Code § 3097(g), providing:

A person required by this section to give notice to the owner, to an original contractor, and to a person to whom a notice to withhold may be given, need give only one notice…with respect to all materials, services, labor, or equipment he or she furnishes for a work of improvement, that means the entire structure or scheme of improvements as a whole, unless the same is furnished under contracts with more than one subcontractor, in which event, the notice requirements shall be met with respect to materials, services, labor, or equipment furnished to each contractor.

If a notice contains a general description required by subdivision (a) or (b) of the materials, services, labor, or equipment furnished to the date of notice, it is not defective because, after that date, the person giving notice furnishes materials, services, labor, or equipment not within the scope of this general description.

Subsection (c)(1) of this provision actually sets forth the requirement that each California preliminary notice contain a general description of the labor or materials to be furnished on the project, and an “estimate of the total price thereof.”  Since the statutes combine the “description” of the labor and materials with the estimate of its value, it would be considered one in the same.

Therefore, if either the scope of the work or the value of the work changes, § 3097(g)’s rule is going to apply, and you do not need to modify your California preliminary notice unless a separate contract with a separate party is executed.

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