Preliminary Notice Is Returned

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State requirements everywhere setting forth the preliminary notice and construction notice requirements leave a lot to be desired in addressing practical issues that arise when complying with the same. This is especially true with respect to the actual delivery of a notice or other required project document.

It is common when sending mail that envelopes will be lost, returned, undeliverable because of address problems, or, in the case of certified and returned mail, returned because the recipient refused delivery or never was around to sign for it (i.e. “unclaimed’).

What should you do if a preliminary notice, notice of intent, mechanics lien, or other time-sensitive project document is returned?


Understand Why The Mail Piece Was Not Delivered

The first thing you need to do is understand why the mail piece was returned. When mail pieces are returned to you, they are marked with a “code” or “endorsement.”  These endorsements are explained on the USPS website.

In the following table, we break down the various USPS returned mail endorsements.  We also associate them with one of three categories as they relate to returned preliminary notice or construction notice documents. The categories are: Defective Mailing, Recipient Action, and Suspect Mail Piece. Based on these classifications, the mechanics lien, bond claim, and preliminary notice laws of your state may require the sending party to take different actions. Keep it handy!

USPS EndorsementUSPS ExplanationLevelset Category
Defective Mailing
Attempted – Not Known Delivery attempted, addresses not known at place of addressDefective Mailing
Moved, Left No Address Addressee moved and filed no change-of-address orderDefective Mailing
Insufficient Address Mail without number, street, box number, route number, or geographical section of city/state omitted and correct address not knownDefective Mailing
IllegibleAddress not readableDefective Mailing
No Such Number Addressed to nonexistent number and correct number not knownDefective Mailing
No Such Office in StateAddressed to nonexistent post officeDefective Mailing
No Such Street Addressed to nonexistent street and correct street not knownDefective Mailing
Not Deliverable as Addressed — Unable to Forward Mail undeliverable at address given; no change-of-address order on file; forwarding order expiredDefective Mailing
Returned for Better Address Mail of local origin imcompletely addressed for distribution or deliveryDefective Mailing
Undeliverable as Addressed, Missing PMB or #Sign Failure to comply with postal requirementsDefective Mailing
Returned for Postage Mail without postage or indication that postage fell offDefective Mailing
Recipient Action
Refused Addressee refused to accept mail or pay postage charges on itRecipient Action
Unclaimed Addressee abandoned or failed to call for mailRecipient Action
Box Closed — No Order Post office box closed for nonpayment of rentRecipient Action
No Mail Receptacle Addressee failed to provide a receptacle for receipt of mailRecipient Action
Suspect Mail Piece
Outside Delivery Limits Addressed to location outside delivery limits of post office of addressSuspect Mail Piece
Temporarily Away Addressee temporarily away and period for holding mail expiredSuspect Mail Piece
Vacant House, apartment, office, or building not occupiedSuspect Mail Piece
Deceased Used only when known that addressee is deceased and mail is not properly deliverable to another personSuspect Mail Piece

> Defective Mailing:  Try Resending When the Mailing Address Is the Problem

If the mail piece is returned to you because it was not properly addressed, the best practice is to correct the deficiency and send the notice again. Example endorsements from the USPS that likely fall into this category are marked on the above chart as “Defective Mailing.”

Most states may not require that you get a construction notice in the recipient’s hands, but they will require that you address the mail piece properly and retain confirmation that you sent it properly. If the preliminary notice or construction notice is returned because of one of these “Defective Mailing” reasons, it is a best practice to conduct some research into the address and the recipient, and resend it.

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>Recipient Action: Keep Your Mailing Records, Post Your Notice, And Try Sending Regular US Mail When Recipient Action Causes The Return Of Your Notices

You are required to properly address a construction notice or preliminary notice, and to stick it in the mail according to state rules. You cannot control whether the recipient accepts the document, and for this reason, most states will not require any further action if you properly mailed a notice and it is returned to you.

Nevertheless, here are three best practices to follow when a construction or preliminary notice is returned to you because of a recipient’s action:

  1. Keep Evidence of Mailing. You will later need to prove that you sent this notice. Keep evidence of your attempt, including the evidence you have that connects the notice recipient to the address where delivery was attempted.
  2. Put a copy into Regular US Mail: Preliminary notices must usually be sent by certified mail, which can be refused or unclaimed. However, regular first class mail pieces cannot be refused or unclaimed. Take your returned notice, put it in a first class envelope, and resend it. Keep evidence of your first class mailing to prove you took this extra step, it may be the evidence that saves your lien claim.
  3. Post a copy of the notice at the jobsite.  This is easier for subcontractors than it is for material suppliers.  In 99.9% of cases, it is not a requirement, so don’t break your back trying to do this.

> Suspect Mail Piece: Double Check Your Preliminary Notice’s Information When Mail is Returned For Suspect Reasons

The endorsements above labeled as “Suspect Mail Piece” are not commonly returned to folks who send preliminary notices. Therefore, if you receive this endorsement, double-check your research and your information about the notice recipient.

If your information is incorrect, treat it like a Defective Mailing. If your information is correct, treat it like a Recipient Action return.

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What To Do If Your Preliminary Notice Is Returned by USPS?
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What To Do If Your Preliminary Notice Is Returned by USPS?
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