In many states, local lien law requires you to send a preliminary notice in order to maintain your lien rights. When you slip your preliminary notice in the mail it is usually delivered. Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of alternative endings here that complicate matters. The mailer could lose the mail piece, the recipient can reject it, the service could return it undeliverable, and more. What does it mean to your obligation to send a preliminary notice if your preliminary notice is returned undelivered?

Your Preliminary Notice Is Returned Undelivered: When It’s Not Your Fault

A preliminary notice 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.

Although it’s usually unnecessary, a best practice when the mailing service returns or rejects your mail is to put a copy in the mail with ordinary First Class Mail.

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.

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Preliminary Notices Returned As “Undeliverable Mail” Are A Bigger Problem

Not all returned mail is equal. Mail pieces returned as “undeliverable” present a different situation from their “unclaimed” or “rejected” relatives. When the USPS returns your mail as “undeliverable,” this is highlighting a defect with the mailing itself. Here are some possible explanations:

  • You didn’t address the mailing to the right location
  • The address did not exist
  • The recipient you indicated is not at the address.

This is why you can’t simply send the preliminary notice to the recipient’s last known address and call it a day.

If you’re sending the notice to the property owner and the general contractor, make sure the property owner and the general contractor receive it, not the material supplier!

You can’t force a recipient to accept your mail piece. However, you do need 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 mailing address, you’ll want to immediately research the recipient’s new address and resend the mailing.

Naturally, undeliverable mail can be quite dangerous to your mechanics lien rights. This is because there’s a delay between when you originally send your notice and when you realize that you sent it 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 OregonORS 87.021).  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 requested, highlighting nuances in the United States Postal Service mailing rates and services that are very important to preliminary notice compliance.  Today, we talk about undeliverable, rejected, or unclaimed mail. These are just 3 of many “return codes” the USPS issues when a preliminary notice is returned undelivered.

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 a returned notice s a challenge all in itself.

Knowing your local preliminary notice requirements is a great way to avoid issues with undeliverable mail. But what else can you do?

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 helps you send your preliminary notices right the first time. If they come back, we use proprietary technology to make sure the carrier re-handles them properly, ensuring you get the maximum mechanics lien protection.

Preliminary Notices: What It Means When Your Notice Is Returned Undelivered?
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