Didn't Send Preliminary Notice
Editor’s Note: Originally published in 2012, this article was completely updated in Feb. 2019

Preliminary notices are an important part of the mechanics lien process. The industry best practice is to send a preliminary notice on every project possible — that’s the advice that we give to our customers here at Levelset, and it’s the same advice that we give to everyone in the industry.

However, sometimes mistakes happen. Someone forgets to send a notice on a certain project, or someone decides not to send a notice for whatever reason, and then a payment issue crops up further on down the line.

And that begs the question: can you still file a mechanics lien on a project if you did not send a preliminary notice? Please read on for the answer.

Preliminary Notice Requirements Vary by the State AND by Project Role

One of the things that makes managing preliminary notices so difficult is that preliminary notice requirements vary from one state to the next. Not only that but within a given state, preliminary notice requirements will be different depending upon your role on the project. In other words, in any one state, the preliminary notice requirements may be different for subcontractors as opposed to prime contractors or material suppliers.

And last but not least, even the name for a preliminary notice can change from state to state. Thus, in Michigan, a preliminary notice is called a “Notice of Furnishing,” while in Florida it’s called a “Notice to Owner.” And in California and Arizona, a preliminary notice is commonly known as a “20 Day Notice.” This naming variation extends to several other states as well.

 

Preliminary Notice Names Vary from State to State

In the tables below, we break out preliminary notice requirements for all 50 states by project role. For more detailed information on the notice requirements for each state, you can click on each state name below to pull up that Mechanics Lien and Notice FAQs for that state.

States Where Preliminary Notice Is Required from Prime or Direct Contractors (in order to file a lien)

* = Notice is only required for certain project types or contract amounts
*** = Notice is only required if it is requested, or when other people on the job file certain documents 

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States Where Preliminary Notice Is Required from Subcontractors (in order to file a lien)

* = Notice is only required for certain project types or contract amounts
*** = Notice is only required if it is requested, or when other people on the job file certain documents 

Infographic Available for Download:

Subcontractor Preliminary Notice Requirements for all 50 States 


States Where Preliminary Notice Is Required from Suppliers (in order to file a lien)

* = Notice is only required for certain project types or contract amounts
*** = Notice is only required if it is requested, or when other people on the job file certain documents 


States Where Preliminary Notice Is Required from Equipment Renters (in order to file a lien)

Note: For equipment rental cos. that are hired by a party other than the property owner on a private construction or improvement project.

* = Notice is only required for certain project types or contract amounts
** = Notice is optional, however, filing notice affords claimant extra protections
*** = Notice is only required if it is requested, or when other people on the job file certain documents 


Why Send Preliminary Notice?

The biggest reason to send preliminary notice — and the reason why sending notice is “required” in certain states — is to secure your mechanics lien rights on a project.

This does not mean that you have to file a mechanics lien. What this means is that sending a notice preserves your right to file a mechanics lien on a project just in case something goes wrong with the payments you are owed on that project.

In fact, actually filing a mechanics lien is pretty rare. But when you need it, you better believe that you’re going to be glad that it’s there (“it” being the right to file the lien), because there’s no other tool that’s as effective as a mechanics lien when it comes to making sure you get the money you’ve earned on a project.

What Happens If You Were Required to Send Preliminary Notice but Did Not?

So, let’s say you were required to send preliminary notice and you didn’t send it. What now?

Unfortunately, you’re probably dead in the water with your mechanics lien rights from a legal perspective.

If you were required to send a preliminary notice but didn’t, and then file a mechanics lien anyway, the prime contractor or property owner may challenge the claim in court. At that point, if you were smart, you’d remove the mechanics lien voluntarily to avoid an adverse judgment (which would almost certainly occur).

To prevent this from happening, please refer to the 1st bullet point above and follow the link to see which states require preliminary notices — chances are, you probably already work in one of those states, so don’t take any chances — always send a notice!

Notice Exceptions Do Exist, But They’re Very Limited

Almost every state has exceptions to the preliminary notice requirements, but the circumstances are also almost always quite limited. For example, the state of Florida has some limited exceptions to its Notice to Owner requirements.

You can visit the Levelset Ask an Expert Center to ask about preliminary notice exceptions on a state by state basis. The CLC is a free service we provide that is staffed by fully licensed construction attorneys.


If Notice Is Not Required, then You’re Okay

There are only a few states where this is true, and if the project you’re working on is located in one of these states, then you can file a lien without having to send a notice first. However, we still recommend that you send a notice, even if you’re in a state where notice is not required. That’s because there are many more benefits to sending a notice other than just securing your lien rights.

What Do I Do If I Miss a Preliminary Notice Deadline?

The answer to this question is, “it depends.” However, we provide a more in-depth answer regarding what to do about late preliminary notices.

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Can I File A Mechanics Lien If I Didn't Send Preliminary Notice?
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Can I File A Mechanics Lien If I Didn't Send Preliminary Notice?
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Levelset
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