When you slip your preliminary notice in the mail it is usually delivered, but there are a surprising number of alternative endings here. The mail piece can get lost, it can get rejected by the recipient, it could get returned undeliverable, and more. What does it mean to your obligation to send a preliminary notice if your preliminary notice is not delivered?
Rejected & Unclaimed Preliminary Notices: That’s Not Your Fault
A mail piece is rejected or unclaimed for two primary reasons: (i) The recipient is disorganized or not diligent about collecting its mail from the post office; or (ii) The recipient is trying to be clever avoiding your mail piece to nullify your lien rights.
If the recipient is being clever, the joke is on them.
While not usually required, a best practice when faced with unclaimed or rejected mail is to put a copy in the mail with ordinary First Class postage.
The law simply cannot require you to force someone to accept a mail piece from you, and in fact, it does not. Your obligation is to send preliminary notice to the required party(ies) at an appropriate and correct address(es). Once you’ve done that (and you can prove it) you have met your obligation. If the recipient refuses or does not claim the mail piece your mechanics lien rights will remain intact.
While not usually required, a best practice when faced with unclaimed or rejected mail is to put a copy in the mail with ordinary First Class postage. These types of mailings cannot be rejected or unclaimed, and therefore, it’s a good backup for you if the opposing party argues you failed to meet your obligation to deliver preliminary notice to them.
Preliminary Notices Returned As “Undeliverable Mail” Are A Bigger Problem
Not all returned mail is created equal. Mail pieces returned as “undeliverable” present a different situation from their “unclaimed” or “rejected” relatives. When mail is returned as “undeliverable,” this is highlighting a defect with the mailing itself. Some possible explanations include that the mailing wasn’t addressed to the right location, that the address did not exist or that the recipient listed is not at the address.
While you are not required to force a recipient to accept your mail piece you are required to send it to the recipient, which means addressing your mail piece to the correct party and the correct place.
Since an “undeliverable” return likely means there is something wrong with the address you’ll want to immediately research the recipient’s whereabouts and resend the mailing.
Undeliverable mail can be quite dangerous to your mechanics lien rights because of the delay between when your notice is originally sent and when you realize that it was sent to the wrong place. Most states require that you send preliminary notice within a certain amount of time from when you first furnish to the project, and this period can be criminally short (such as the 8 day period in Oregon). The post office can take weeks to return an undeliverable mail piece.
Mailing Confusions and Pitfalls Highlights The Benefits of a Preliminary Notice Service
Earlier this week we wrote about the differences between certified mail and certified mail return receipt, highlighting nuances in the USPS mailing rates and services that are very important to preliminary notice compliance. Today, we talk about undeliverable, rejected and unclaimed mail, which is just 3 of many “return codes” issued by the USPS when a mail piece is not delivered.
Sending the required notice, in the required format, to the required parties is challenging enough with the confusing preliminary notice statutes at play. Dealing with USPS nuances and returned mail is a challenge all in itself.
There are many reasons why it is smart to outsource your preliminary notice work. For help with this, see our list of the Top 10 Best Nationwide Preliminary Notice Services (including Reviews & Guide).
The monotonous task of managing mailings is just one of them. Levelset uses proprietary to make sure your preliminary notices are sent right the first time, and when they come back, we use proprietary technology to make sure they are re-handled properly, ensuring you get the maximum mechanics lien protection.