Managing your lien rights can be quite a challenge because it means planning ahead and understanding the nuances of notice and lien requirements that vary from state to state. Case in point, the state of Georgia, which is just one of 5 states that require a Notice of Commencement be filed at or near the beginning of a construction project by the property owner or other top-of-the-chain parties to signify the project’s official beginning.
If your company is working on a Georgia construction project, depending on your project role, you may need to know essential information included in the Notice of Commencement that could be required to maintain your lien rights on the project.
Why the Notice of Commencement matters
You already know the Georgia Notice of Commencement is a document filed with the county by the property owner, general contractor, or designated agent at the start of a project.
If you contracted with someone other than the general contractor on a project, you must send a Notice to Contractor to both the general contractor and the property owner within 30 days of the Notice of Commencement being filed or within 30 days of the first time you furnished labor or materials, whichever is later.
Failure to send this notice in a timely manner to the required recipients can void your rights to file a lien claim in Georgia if payment problems arise.
But here’s the catch: On your Notice to Contractor form, you should include the name of the project exactly as it was listed on the Notice of Commencement. Obviously, to do that means that you have to actually see the Notice of Commencement in order to get the correct project name. So, where do you look for the Notice of Commencement for a construction project in Georgia?
Where to find the Notice of Commencement in Georgia
There are a few ways to find a Notice of Commencement for a construction project in Georgia.
First, check the jobsite. Georgia law requires that the notice be posted on the site where work is being performed. If it isn’t practical for you to visit the work site, you can request a copy from the property owner or general contractor on the project.
Most people are forthcoming with this information, but if you’re working on a deadline or you’re not sure who the official property owner or general contractor is then you may need to take a different approach.
To find an electronic copy of the Notice of Commencement, check out Georgia’s statewide website, the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority. Here you can search for a Notice of Commencement, previous liens, real estate documents, and other papers filed with counties across Georgia. (Note that this is not a free service — you’ll have to sign up for an account and pay anywhere from $5 for a single use up to $25/month, plus any printing fees).
Note, too, that there’s a lot of information available on the website, and to find a Notice of Commencement you’ll need to know the book and page number where it’s recorded or know the name of the general contractor or property owner as they’re listed on the notice. This can be tricky (to say the least) because if you’re searching for Smith Contractors and they’re listed as John Smith Electrical and Plumbing, your search may turn up empty, leaving you uncertain whether you have the wrong name, if the county hasn’t yet entered the document into the database, or if nobody filed the notice in the first place.
“You can also search for the identity of the true owner by conducting an address search on the county tax assessor’s website,” says construction attorney Richard Storrs. “Additionally, you can verify corporate names by performing a search on the secretary of state’s website.”
Conclusion – Be Proactive, Not Perfect
If at the end of the day you still can’t find the Notice of Commencement, it’s good practice to go ahead and send a Notice to Contractor as soon as you commence work on a job.
“Always send the Notice to Contractor to both the GC and the owner by certified mail or by statutory overnight service (UPS or Fed Ex),” says Storrs.
If you later receive a copy of the Notice of Commencement then you can update your notice with any relevant information and send it again to interested parties. The goal here is to be proactive and protective, not perfect.