Let’s drill down on some basics here. In the past we’ve discussed some pretty specific topics related to preliminary notices, but we don’t often touch on some of the basics, such as this critical component to every preliminary notice that gets sent: How to send them!
This is a primer to help you understand the differences between the two most common methods that people in the construction business use to send their preliminary notices, Regular Certified Mail and Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested.
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Regular Certified Mail
Regular certified mail allows the sending party to track the delivery of a mail piece and find out exactly when and where the item was delivered (or delivery was attempted). Each certified mail piece is assigned a tracking number, and this tracking number is scanned both when the mail is sent out for delivery and when it’s 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 recipient’s delivery address.
Certified mail requires the recipient’s signature. The signature is stored with the post office and kept on record (and available for viewing for an additional fee), but it is not mailed back to you or provided to you as a standard practice.
Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested
The “Return Receipt Requested” service is an additional service that you can add to your certified mail piece. If a document is required to be sent by “certified mail return receipt,” this is typically the best option.
When sending mail with this service, you’ll still pay for the certified mail postage and stick the green tracking label on your mail piece. Here’s the difference: On the back of your mail piece, you’ll add a “green card,” which is what the recipient will sign when the document is delivered. This green card will be mailed back to you so that you 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 produce a delivery confirmation, a signature will be collected, and the signature will be accessible to you for an additional fee. Getting the green card back is what we in Louisiana call “lagniappe.” It’s a bonus!
For more on this, see our page that explains delivery methods in great detail: Certified Mail, or Certified Mail Return Receipt?
What’s Required For Your Preliminary Notice?
A great question, and one without a singular answer.
Like any notice or lien document, which type of mail you need is governed by many factors: which state your project is in, the type of project (e.g. residential, commercial, etc.), and your role on the project.
To make things even more complicated, the type of postage required may differ based on who is receiving the mail, even for people on the same project! For example, it may be required to send preliminary notice via certified mail to one party, but certified mail return receipt requested to different party on the same project.
Additionally, other mail options — such as restricted delivery — may be required in addition to these services.
How To Avoid Slipping Up
As you can see, just figuring out which type of mail to use can be very complicated. To help you out, Levelset has compiled these rules and made them available in our free resources on Preliminary Notices. Select your state from the dropdown menu or on the map to see the frequently asked questions, rules, forms, and guidelines for how to send notices in your state. See also: What It Means When Your Notice Is Returned Undelivered.
Additionally, you could use Levelset to make paperwork easy and handle all of these complications for you. When you enter a project in the Levelset platform, it automatically determines which type of mail you need, and calculates when the preliminary notice must be sent, and delivers it for you. If you’re interested in exploring other options, too, take a look at our List & Reviews of the Top 10 Preliminary Notice Services in the country.