Arizona has a very strict preliminary notice requirement with zero exceptions and zero tolerance. The requirement comes from ARS 33-992.01, which provides where relevant:
B. Except for a person performing actual labor for wages, every person who furnishes labor, professional services, materials, machinery, fixtures or tools for which a lien otherwise may be claimed under this article shall, as a necessary prerequisite to the validity of any claim of lien, serve the owner or reputed owner, the original contractor or reputed contractor, the construction lender, if any, or reputed construction lender, if any, and the person with whom the claimant has contracted for the purchase of those items with a written preliminary twenty day notice as prescribed by this section.
The statute makes clear that everyone who has a right to file a lien must send preliminary notice. Here are two important ways the Arizona preliminary notice requirement differs from other states.
Even General Contractors Must Send Notice in Arizona
In many states, general contractors are exempt from sending preliminary notice. The reasoning is simple. The preliminary notice document functions to notify the owner of the existence of subcontractors and suppliers. It’s simply unnecessary to notify the owner that the general contractor is working on the project.
Not so in Arizona.
Arizona’s laws state that everyone must send the notice, and makes no exception for the general contractor. Similarly, the statute also requires claimants to send a copy of the notice to the “person with hom the claimant has contracted.”
While this may seem to have little use, you can at least draw some comfort that the legislators in Arizona appeared to be a little confused when drafting the statute. According to a strict reading of §33-992.01, the general contractor is even required to notify itself!
Actual Notice Is Not An Exception
Most states have created statutory and judicial exceptions to their preliminary notice requirement. Consider the law (prior to the July 2012 amendments) in California, where there are sometimes exceptions to the notice requirement if the property owner has “actual notice” of or deep involvement with a party on a project.
The case law in Arizona reveals no similar exceptions. Actual notice is not a substitute for formal notice.
Finally, I recommend reading Levelset’s Arizona Lien Laws Frequently Asked Questions. There is a chart of requirements for sending preliminary notice and mechanics lien notices, as well as answers to FAQs about the laws in Arizona.