I'm a sub-subcontractor and I need to file a lien notice for a project that is locate in Rhode Island. How can I find the correct place to send the notices to? My customer is not being cooperative.
Sep 17, 2018
That's a good question, and I'm sorry to hear that your customer refuses to be cooperative. First - the requirement. In Rhode Island, claimants who are not under contract with the property owner (or tenant) are not required to send preliminary notice; but a Notice of Intention is still required. In fact, the Notice of Intention itself will serve as the lien, once filed. The Notice of Intention must be mailed to the property owner no later than 200 days after the date on which the lien claimant last furnished labor and/or materials to the project. Keep in mind that since this notice actually functions as the lien itself (once filed), the period for sending the notice is the same as the period in which the lien must be filed. This notice must be given to the property owner (and the lessee/tenant, as applicable) - but as noted above, sending the notice as required is tough when your customer isn't cooperating. However, the Rhode Island mechanics lien statute does appear to have a solution for this problem. Specifically, § 34-28-4(a) states "...if no residence or place of business is known or ascertainable by the person making the mailing by inquiry of the person with whom the person making the mailing is directly dealing or otherwise, then the mailing under this section shall be to the address of the land..." Decoded, that means if the address of the property owner cannot be obtained after it has been requested from a customer, the notice may be sent to the address of the property where work was performed. So, under a worst case scenario where the property owner truly could not be found, sending the notice to the project property is a fair enough Plan B. Of course, it would be wise to exhaust all options for obtaining the owner's information before resorting to Plan B. Reaching out to the general contractor could be helpful here, and it could also put more pressure on a nonpaying subcontractor to resolve the dispute. Further, threatening a lawsuit (such as a potential breach of contract claim, for starters) unless the information is provided could also compel a customer to provide necessary project information. If that doesn't work, there are services available online (including zlien) who will research the project property and provide ownership information as well as help with notice and lien services.