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Preliminary Notices
FAQs & Resources

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What is a Preliminary Notice?

A preliminary notice is a construction notice sent by a contractor, supplier, or equipment lessor to inform the property owner of their work on the project. It is often required by mechanics lien law to establish their right to file a lien if they are not paid. In addition to the owner, a preliminary notice may need to be sent to the lender, general contractor, and other parties at the top of the payment chain.

Many states require subcontractors and suppliers to send preliminary notice in order to preserve their right to file a mechanics lien if they don’t receive payment.

Depending on the location of the project, a preliminary notice may be called a Notice to Owner (NTO), Notice of Furnishing, pre-lien notice, or something similar. They are sent at the start of a construction project before any payment disputes arise, and usually before any payments are due.

This page provides all the information you need to know about preliminary notices, answers frequently asked questions, and provides free preliminary notice forms. Whether you’re collecting and receiving notices, or you’re sending them, this information will help you understand and master the construction notice document and process.

Our Ultimate Guide to Preliminary Notices reveals just how many benefits this document brings to a construction project.

Benefits of sending & receiving preliminary notice

Getting paid in the construction industry is tough, and so the question for contractors and suppliers is simple: How to break through the mess and get your invoices paid? Notices are step one to getting paid in the construction industry.

Faster payments

Preliminary notices help ensure that the property owner and general contractor are aware of every subcontractor and supplier on the job. If they know that a subcontractor is on the job, there’s a greater chance that sub will get paid. Since notices are helpful and promote better project transparency, they have the effect of prioritizing a contractor or supplier’s invoice above others who have not sent the notice, and thus get companies paid more often and more quickly.

More visibility

Those in charge of a project, such as property developers, lenders, and general contractors, look forward to receiving notices from subcontractors and suppliers. Notices give these parties more visibility as to who is contributing to the job. In fact, our research reveals that more than 83% of notice recipients find the documents helpful, or just part of everyday business.

In fact, property owners were largely responsible for the existence of construction notices! In the 60s and 70s, property owners and construction lenders lobbied their governments to help them protect against “surprise liens.” The result of his lobbying was the creation of these pre-lien notices in many states. The purpose was to give owners and lenders the ability to know and track who was on their job, so that they could be proactive to avoid lien claims filed by them.

Better communication

When communication breaks down on a project, it can cause jobsite delays, payment disputes, and costly litigation. Ultimately, a preliminary notice is an effective communication tool that benefits everyone on a project.

Types of Preliminary Notices

States use different names for a preliminary notice, though the function of each is very similar. Sending one of these notices will typically help to protect a party’s lien rights if they are not paid, and improve communication among every stakeholder on a project.

However, every state has their own specific notice deadlines and form requirements. Even states that use the same name for preliminary notices vary greatly in their application.

In addition, it’s common for construction parties to use colloquial names for these documents. They may call it a prelien (as in a “pre-lien notice”) or simply a prelim. These terms are simply a nickname for the state’s preliminary notice.

Notice to Owner (NTO)

The Notice to Owner (NTO) is a preliminary notice document used on construction projects in 13 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

Notice of Furnishing

A Notice of Furnishing is used in 5 states: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

Notice to Contractor

A Notice to Contractor is used in Georgia, as well as on public projects in Washington.

Other types

Many states refer in their statutes to “preliminary notice.” However, some states have different types of preliminary notice depending on the party’s role, and the type of project. These include:

  • Notice of Right to Lien (AK, NV, OR, WI)
  • Preliminary 20-day Notice (AZ, CA)
  • Notice of Contract (MA, NC)
  • Monthly Notice (TX)
  • Notice to Owner Prior to Performance (AL)
  • Notice of Unpaid Lien (AL)
  • Notice to Property Owner (AZ)
  • Disburser Notice (CO)
  • Notice of Identification (MA)
  • Notice of Subcontract (NC)
  • 31-Day Notice (NV)
  • Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to Lien (NJ)
  • Notice to Lien Agent (NC, VA)
  • Notice of Possible Mechanic’s Lien (RI)
  • Notice of Preconstruction Services (UT)
  • Model Disclosure Statement (WA)
  • Subcontractor Identification Notice (WI)
  • Preliminary Notice of Right to Lien (WY)

All of the different names, forms, and requirements can seem overwhelming! Don’t panic. We make the requirements – and the preliminary notice process – simple. Choose your project’s state from the map or drop-down menu to learn the rules and download free forms.

We make it even simpler by letting you send notices through Levelset. Enter a few details about your project and we’ll automatically generate the form you need.

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Notice requirements

Sometimes, state law requires parties to send preliminary notices in order to preserve their lien rights. These notice laws are complicated and differ significantly from state-to-state and project-to-project. Contractors and suppliers in these states that fail to follow the requirements could lose their right to file a mechanics lien if they aren’t paid. (See: Can You File A Mechanics Lien Without A Preliminary Notice?)

However, because of the benefits it brings, it’s a best practice to send notice on every project – even when it’s not a requirement.


Each state has their own statutes that govern the rules and deadlines for sending notice to protect payment. The rules about sending a “notice to owner” in Florida, for example, are different from the “20-day preliminary notice” requirement in California, and the “monthly notice” in Texas. Notably, New York lacks any notice requirements at all.

Requirements may differ by project type

States often have different rules for different types of construction projects. The state rules may allow notice to be sent long after the job begins on a commercial job. For example, Washington contractors and suppliers have 60 days to send the notice. But the same state may set a different notice deadline for public or state jobs. For example, construction parties must send notice within 10 days on public projects in Washington.

Sending preliminary notice

Most states require subcontractors and suppliers to provide the notice to key project stakeholders like the property owner, the general contractor, and the construction lender.

Delivery methods

Notices must typically be sent by certified mail, certified mail return receipt requested, or by registered mail. You can learn more in this article: What is a pre-lien notice?

Many construction companies already appreciate the benefit of sending and receiving notices. They often have sophisticated policies in place to track deadlines and send or collect notices on every project.

Delivery services

In either case, it’s common for administrators and finance professionals to spend a lot of time doing busy work like researching prelim notice laws, managing notice requirements, and handling the paperwork involved with preparing, mailing, and tracking notices.  This is why it’s a good idea to use some type of service (or software) to help better handle notices. Take a look at our review of The 10 Best Nationwide Preliminary Notice Services.

Other notice types

A preliminary notice is typically sent at the beginning of a project, or within a specific amount of time after first providing labor or materials. It’s different from a Notice of Intent (NOI), which some states require after payment is due, but before a party can actually file a mechanics lien.

Video: What is a Preliminary Notice?

Learn how preliminary notices work, and how you can use them to improve communication and speed up payment on every construction project.

Preliminary Notice Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to common questions contractors have about preliminary notices in construction, prepared by construction attorneys and payment experts. Whether you need to send a notice, or are collecting and receiving them, this guide will help you understand these notice documents and how to manage them.

What is the purpose of a preliminary notice?

There are many types of notices sent in the construction process. Most of the time, like as is the case with these preliminary notices, the notices are sent for the purposes of passing information between all the different parties on the job. That is precisely why this "Prelim" device exists.

Sending notice may also protect a party's mechanics lien rights on a job.

How do I fill out a preliminary notice?

Filling out these documents is quite easy. The documents are pretty clear and contain a number of pretty simple fields.

The real tricky part comes in filling in the fields that you may not know. You may not know, for example, who the construction lender is on the job, or even the property owner or general contractor.

Because of this, research is very important when sending notice documents..

Download a free project information sheet to help you identify and collect the details you'll need to fill out construction notices and other payment documents.

What information is required on a preliminary notice?

Generally speaking, prelim documents must include the following information:
  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Name, address, phone of company that hired you
  • Address or identification of the job
  • Identification of your work
  • Name, Address, phone number of the General Contractor
  • Name, Address, phone number of the Property Owner
  • Name, Address, phone number of the Construction Lender
  • Text blocks required by the state law

Download a free project information sheet with all of the information you'll need to fill out a notice.

Can I file a mechanics lien if I didn't send preliminary notice?

If your state law requires you to send a notice and you don't, you'll likely lose the right to file a mechanics lien later on. However, if you aren't required to send a notice (and in many cases, notices are not strictly required), you may still be able to file the lien.

We explored this in more detail here: Can I still file a mechanics lien if I didn't send notice?

Can someone file a mechanics lien against my job if they didn't send a notice?

If a contractor or supplier filed a mechanics lien against your job, and they were required to send a notice, the lien is invalid if the notice was not sent, or was not sent properly.

View a map of preliminary notice requirements in every state. If a notice was required, the next thing to determine is whether the notice was sent correctly.

If you find that the notice was not sent or sent correctly, the lien is likely invalid. However, this doesn't mean the lien just disappears. Mechanic liens are quite sticky and you can't just get it wiped off the title.

Is a "preliminary notice" the same as a NTO, a pre-lien notice, etc.

This construction notice goes by a lot of different names, but the main function is the same. It might be called a prelim, pre-lien, Notice to Owner, notice to contractor, NTO, etc. Each state has their own deadlines and requirements, though, so don't assume that just because you know one state's rules that they'll apply in a neighboring state.

Is a subcontractor covered by the notice sent by their material supplier?

No!! This is a huge misconception. You aren’t covered by your material supplier’s preliminary notices. For that matter, you’re not covered by your subcontractors’ preliminary notices, either. We wrote about this question in, Are You Covered By Your Material Supplier’s Notice? (Nope)

Do I need to collect a lien waiver from contractors who didn't send preliminary notices?

Collecting and tracking lien waivers is a real pain. Many companies try to simplify the process by just requesting and collecting lien waivers from the contractors, suppliers, and vendors who send preliminary notices. While this could be a good practice, it could also be dangerous.

This could be a good practice when a state has clear preliminary notice requirements. If the state's laws are not crystal clear about preliminary notices, then this is a bad, and dangerous idea.

However, even when the state's preliminary notice laws are clear, it is still problematic, because you must keep track of when notices are required and when they are not. In other words, someone who didn't send you a preliminary notice (but wasn't required to) is still able to file a lien! And every state has exceptions to their notice rules. . See, for example, Can I File A Lien Even If I Didn't Send Notice?, and Can I include preliminary notice in my contract?.

Keeping track of two things (i.e. did someone send notice? were they required to?) is harder than keeping track of one thing (i.e. did I get a lien waiver from the contractor?). As such, it's probably possible to employ this practice, but it's not a best practice, and is more complicated than meets the eye.

Can I deliver preliminary notices by hand?

While you usually can, it's not a good idea to deliver notices by hand. Most notably, because you want to have proof of delivery.

Most of the time, a contractor or supplier must send their notice by some type of certified mail. This could be certified mail with return receipt requested, registered mail, or just plain certified mail. The most popular is plain certified mail, but it's crucial to check the rules in your state and comply with those rules explicitly.

Should notices be sent on all projects?

You should send preliminary notice on every job, regardless of whether the notice is required or not. It's a best practice to send notices on all jobs, and to collect notices on all jobs. Notices help everyone and make payment go much more smoothly, and quickly. In fact, you should send notice even if the GC or property owner don't request it..

Can I cancel a preliminary notice?

No - Canceling a preliminary notice is not really a thing. There’s no way to formally cancel a notice document – the mechanism doesn’t even exist. Therefore, not only is it not necessary to cancel a notice, it’s not even possible.

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Map of Preliminary Notice Requirements

Is notice required in your state? The below United States map will give you an answer at a quick glance. Explore our preliminary notice resources more fully, which includes thousands of forms, charts, blog articles, and more, by clicking on the state your interested in learning more about below.

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  • Public Projects

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Preliminary Notice Service That Helps You

Join the thousands of contractors who are empowered & helped by Levelset

Sending and managing preliminary notices is an important task, but can be tedious and complicated. This is why many companies turn to third-party services and tools to help get the notice process right.

At Levelset, we help thousands of contractors and suppliers across the country with their notice processes (and getting paid faster!). Our notice service combines easy to use web-based software with payment experts on your side. Just take a look at all the positive reviews from contractors across the country. We help thousands of administrators, business owners, and accountants just like you.

Levelset, founded in 2007 by construction attorneys and technologists, is headquartered in New Orleans, LA, and has a team of over 150 that helps thousands of contractors and suppliers every day with the preliminary notice process, project research, and more. The company has been building its technology platform and preliminary notice services now for over 12 years, and is always there for its users, as reflected in the 800+ 5-Star reviews published on reputable, third-party sites.

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