Iowa may be known across the country as a leading producer in agriculture, but if you’re in the construction industry then you should also know it as the home of the Mechanic’s Notice and Lien Registry (or “MNLR” for short). This online registry is a filing repository for several different kinds of documents (including Mechanics Liens) but for now, let’s focus on Preliminary Notices.
If your company is on a construction project in Iowa, sending a preliminary notice may be required or voluntary depending on the role your company plays on a job and the type of construction project it is. Additionally, depending on several factors, you may need to send notice directly to the required recipient(s) or file it through the Mechanic’s Notice and Lien Registry.
For general contractors working on a single or two-family dwelling, you must file a Notice of Commencement through the MNLR within 10 days of beginning work. You must also provide the property owner with a written list of every contractor and supplier working on the job and update it throughout the project as needed.
For everyone else (subcontractor, sub-subcontractors, suppliers, laborers, etc.) on a residential project, you must notify the owner of the property before your company’s portion of the balance due is paid to the general contractor. It’s best to file your preliminary notice as soon as you begin work on the job, but it may be ok to file later. Remember, though, the notice is only effective to protect lien rights on the amount of money that is owed to your company but is still in the owner’s hands (and not yet paid to the GC) at the time the notice is given.
But here’s the catch: in order to file that preliminary notice with the registry, you need to have the MNLR number from the Notice of Commencement filed for the project. The registry includes an easy-to-use search function you can use to track down this filing, but if the general contractor hasn’t filed a Notice of Commencement then you must file it on their behalf and then file a preliminary notice for yourself in order to protect your lien rights.
Additional Reading on Types of Construction Projects:
Anyone working on a commercial construction project hired by someone other than the property owner or general contractor is required to provide written notice to the general contractor within 30 days of beginning work or supplying materials. If you do end up needing to file a lien claim, you may be required to provide proof that you sent notice to the GC within the time limit. Since this is not filed through the MNLR, it’s best to send notice via certified mail.
If you worked on a public building (such as a school or courthouse) or as part of a public works project, you may be required to provide notice to protect your payment rights. Similar to commercial projects, if you contracted with someone other than the general contractor, you must give written notice to the general contractor within 90 days after you’ve completed work on the project. You’ll need to serve this notice by registered or certified mail to the general contractor’s office.
Conclusion – Send Preliminary Notices Even If It’s Not Required
Just because you may not be required to send a preliminary notice doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send one. Preliminary notices are not an indication of payment issues, but they’re a great way to mitigate future disputes and keep everyone informed about who is on a job. They give people at the bottom of the chain (material suppliers, sub-subs, laborers, etc) a way to protect themselves and people at the top of the chain (property owners and general contractors) a clear picture of who is working on a project so they can clear any snags in payment before they become bigger problems.