How to Send a Preliminary Notice

Imagine this scenario: you’re an excavation company about to start on a project that’s building a new subdivision for a big development company. As you prepare to send a preliminary notice, you realize that you don’t know the address for the project. In fact, you don’t even know if the project actually has a real address. However, you DO know that the preliminary notice requires an address.

So what do you do?

Where Am I?

Not only is the scenario described above possible, for certain types of construction projects, not having a “real address” is actually very common. (Side note: by “real address,” we mean that the construction project is taking place on a piece of land – also known as a “parcel” of land – that has a physical address that has been recorded with the county where it’s located.)

The missing address conundrum is not limited to new subdivisions. Sometimes a project will take place on a parcel of land that used to be two (or more) separate properties. Other times, it’s a public project that might span several city blocks or several acres of previously undeveloped land. Whatever the case, just because the property or land in question may not have a physical address, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your company doesn’t have lien rights on the project.

How to Find an Address on a Private (Commercial or Residential) Project

In my experience, the best way to track down an address on a private project is to start by finding the nearest street corner and then grabbing a nearby address as a reference point. Avoid using directions as the address (i.e., do not use descriptions like this: “Go 30 miles south down Hwy 37 and take a right at the red barn”). Try searching for the parcel using that criteria on Google Earth. (Side note: Google Earth and the Levelset research team are BFFs!)

Once you have a clear image of where the project is located, the next best tool is the county’s GIS map. These days, most counties have these tools available online, and most can be easily found by doing a web search using the following terms: County Name, State, GIS MAP.

Use that nearby address we talked about above to locate the general location of where your project is. Next, use the tools from the GIS map to identify your parcel of land. Try to verify the data by matching lot numbers, owners’ names, etc. From there you should be able to grab a property card linked to the county assessor’s public website.

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What About a Public Project That Does Not Have an Address?

Imagine a new scenario: this time, you’re working on a municipal infrastructure project repairing sewer lines that stretch across 7 city blocks. How do you find the address for this project? Where do you even begin?

Finding the address for a public project like the sewer line example above also begins with an internet search, but on public projects I usually start in a different place by searching for project bids for the project in question. The best combination that I’ve found is to search by the nickname of the project, the city and state, and the general contractor’s name if you have it.

You may even try looking through the city government’s meeting minutes (hopefully, the minutes will be posted online), or scavenging through any other online resources that might contain some of the project or bidding information. (Follow this link to see an example of public project information available online in Los Angeles County.)  width=

It will help your search if you can make an educated guess as to which city department is authorizing this project, and who that department’s contact person is for the project. As they used to say on the X-Files, the information is out there, so do your best to find it for yourself.

What Do I Do If I Still Can’t Find the Required Project Info?

We don’t want to make it seem like this is a piece of cake, because it’s really not. In fact, finding all of the project information required to send out preliminary notices and protect project payments is an industry-wide challenge that can trip up even the best-run construction companies.

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