New Jersey Preliminary Notice Guide and FAQs

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New Jersey Preliminary Notice FAQs

About New Jersey Preliminary Notice

New Jersey Preliminary Notice Rules
At a Glance


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Preliminary Notices Are Required on Some Projects

New Jersey requires that a notice of unpaid balance and right file lien be filed and served in order for a project participant to retain the right to file a lien if necessary. On other projects the notice is not specifically required, but can provide some benefit.


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GCs May Need to Send Notice

Generally, no Preliminary Notice is required. However, on residential projects, the GC should file and serve a Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to File Lien to retain the right to file a lien if necessary. On other projects the notice is not specifically required, but can provide some benefit.


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Subcontractors Must Send Notice on Residential Projects

Notice of Unpaid Balance is due within 60 days of last furnishing on residential projects for a project participant to retain the right to file a lien if necessary. On other projects the notice is not specifically required, but can provide some benefit.


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Suppliers Must Send Notice on Residential Projects

Notice of Unpaid Balance is due within 60 days of last furnishing on residential projects for a project participant to retain the right to file a lien if necessary. On other projects the notice is not specifically required, but can provide some benefit.


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Notice Cannot be Sent Late When Required

When specifically required (i.e. residential projects) failure to send the notice within the deadline is completely fatal to any subsequent lien claim. On non-residential projects sending the notice late only effects the date for priority related to other encumbrances or transfers of the property.


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Send to Parties Up-The-Chain & File With County Clerk

A notice of unpaid balance, when required, must be served on the parties up the chain from the noticing party, and recorded with the county clerk of the county in which the project as located. For non-residential projects, the notice only needs to be filed to be effective.

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New Jersey Generally Requires Preliminary Notice on Public Projects

New Jersey has two possible remedies for parties to recover payment on public projects, a claim against the payment bond, and a lien against the project funds. For both, preliminary notice may be required.


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On public jobs, any claims for non-payment are made against the general contractor's bond. Since GCs will not make a claim against their own bond for non-payment, they do not have bond claim rights, and have no preliminary notice requirement.


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Notice Generally Required

Bond Claim: Preliminary notice is required for all parties who didn't contract with either the public entity or the GC;
Contract Funds: Preliminary notice is require for all parties who do not have a contract with the public entity.


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Notice Generally Required

Bond Claim: Preliminary notice is required for all parties who didn't contract with either the public entity or the GC;
Contract Funds: Preliminary notice is require for all parties who do not have a contract with the public entity.


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Notice Can be Sent Late

Notice should always be provided within the proper time period, but if a notice deadline is missed on a New Jersey public project it's not fatal to either a bond claim or lien on funds. However, the late notice is only effective from the date received.


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Send to GC; Send to Public Entity Representative

A bond claim preliminary notice must be sent to the GC, but it is likely a good idea to also send the notice to the surety, if known. A preliminary notice prior to a lien on funds should be sent to the municipal clerk, the chief financial officer of the county or the chairman of the commission, board or authority.

New Jersey has a relatively odd preliminary notice scheme, mostly because of the extremely ponderous and frustrating procedure related to potential lien claims on residential property.

Whether a New Jersey preliminary notice (usually called a notice of unpaid balance and right to lien) is strictly required depends on the project type. The only construction projects that specifically require preliminary notice in New Jersey are residential project. These notices balance on the line between “preliminary notices” and “notices of intent to lien” given the deadline of after work is performed, and the designation as a notice of “unpaid balance.” The deadline to file a Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to Claim Lien on a residential project is 60 days after the last day on which the project participant provided labor  or materials.

Unlike most other preliminary notices, the New Jersey notice of unpaid balance and right to claim lien is a filed document. This means that in order to be effective, the notice must be recorded with the county clerk’s office for the county in which the project was located as well as being served on the property owner. But, for residential projects, the process doesn’t stop there. A demand for arbitration (along with a copy of the filed notice of unpaid balance, and an affidavit that the arbitration demand was served within 10 days of the date the notice of unpaid balance was filed), must be filed in order for a project participant to later qualify for mechanics lien protection.

While not specifically required, it is also generally a good idea for a project participant to file a notice of unpaid balance on non-residential projects. While sending a non-required “visibility” notice is always a good idea at the start of a project, filing a notice of unpaid balance can have tangible benefits related to a claimant lien rights. The filing of a notice of unpaid balance will give a mechanics lien priority over other encumbrances to the property, or buyers, if the transaction occurs subsequently to the filing of the notice. Additionally, if a preliminary notice is filed prior to the recording of the permanent financing, the mechanics lien will have priority over the permanent mortgage, but not over the construction mortgage.

Preliminary Notice Frequently Asked Questions

If you're working on projects in New Jersey, it's important to understand the details about New Jersey preliminary notices. If you're receiving prelims, it's important to know what you're looking at and know what to do in followup. Prelims in New Jersey are subject to a lot of complex rules and requirements, and may or may not be specifically required, so this can all be a difficult and tedious process. Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) about the New Jersey preliminary notice process.

Prelim FAQs on Private Projects

Do I Need to Send a New Jersey Preliminary Notice?

It depends. For non-residential projects, preliminary notice is not required but may be advantageous to the potential lien claimant, as noted in the priority section above. The filing of a Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to Claim Lien works to give a mechanics lien priority over other encumbrances to the property, or buyers, if the transaction occurs subsequently to the filing of the notice. The notice is effective for 120 days after last furnishing labor or materials to a residential project, and 90 days after last furnishing for other projects. The notice does not extend the time in which a lien may be filed.

For residential projects, lien claimants must lodge for record a Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to Claim Lien prior to filing a mechanics lien. Further, the lien claimant must also serve a demand for arbitration (with the American Arbitration Association, unless another party is specified in contract) on the property owner, and include a completed and signed copy of the Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to Claim Lien and an affidavit that the notice has been lodged for record.

When do I Need to Send a New Jersey Preliminary Notice?

For non-residential projects, if the lien claimant elects to send preliminary notice, it may be filed at any time prior to filing the lien. It will be effective for priority purposes from the date it is lodged for record.

For residential projects, the notice must be sent within 60 days after the date of last furnishing labor or materials to the project. The arbitration demand must be served within 10 days from the date the notice is lodged for record.

What if I Send the New Jersey Preliminary Notice Late?

For non-residential projects the failure to file a preliminary notice has no effect on the ability of the lien claimant to file a mechanics lien. It will only affect priority if there are other encumbrances on, or transfers of, the property.

Failure to timely file and serve the preliminary notice on residential projects is fatal to the lien claim.

How Should the New Jersey Preliminary Notice be Sent?

For non-residential projects, the notice must only be lodged for record with the county clerk in the county in which the property is located. It may be delivered to the property owner or any other interested party, but it is not required.

For residential projects, the notice must be lodged for record with the county clerk in the county in which the property is located, and must be served on the property owner and all parties “up-the-chain” for the lien claimant. The notice should be served both by sending certified mail, return receipt requested, AND by regular mail.

Do I Have to Send the New Jersey Preliminary Notice to Someone Other than the Owner?

Yes. For non-residential projects the notice must only be lodged for record with the county clerk; it may, but need not, be given to any party.

For residential projects, the notice must be lodged for record with the county clerk and it must be served on all parties “up-the-chain” from the lien claimant.

Is the New Jersey Preliminary Notice Requirement met when sent or delivered?

In New Jersey, notices are considered delivered when sent by certified mail.

Prelim FAQs on Public Projects

Do I Need to Send a New Jersey Preliminary Notice?

Contractor’s Bond: All claimants who do not have a direct contractual relation to the contractor furnishing the bond must send a preliminary notice.

Contract Funds: All claimants must provide preliminary notice prior to filing a lien on the contract funds.

When do I Need to Send a New Jersey Preliminary Notice?

Contractor’s Bond: Preliminary notice must be given prior to the commencing of work. If the notice is given late, all is not necessarily lost, but the notice will only cover labor or materials from the date on which the notice was given.

Contract Funds: Preliminary notice must be received no later than 20 days after the date of first furnishing labor or materials to the project. If the notice is given late, all is not necessarily lost, but the notice will only cover labor or materials from the date on which the notice was given.

What if I Send the New Jersey Preliminary Notice Late?

For preliminary notices on both claims on the contractor’s bond and against the contract funds, giving preliminary notice late is generally not fatal to the claim. The notice only works from the date the notice is received, however.

How Should the New Jersey Preliminary Notice be Sent?

Contractor’s Bond: Preliminary notice must be sent by certified mail (or other method of delivery provided that the claimant has proof of the delivery of the notice).

Contract funds: The preliminary notice of a claimant making a claim on the contract funds must be filed with the either the municipal clerk, the chief financial officer of the county or the chairman of the commission, board or authority.

To Whom Must the New Jersey Preliminary Notice be Given?

Contractor’s Bond: Preliminary notice must be provided to the general contractor.

Contract funds: Preliminary notice must be filed with the either the municipal clerk, the chief financial officer of the county or the chairman of the commission, board or authority.

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New Jersey Preliminary Notice Form Template

The New Jersey preliminary notice form is regulated by statute, which means that the document must contain certain information and specific language in order to be effective. The forms provided here for free by Levelset are compliant with the New Jersey rules. You can download them for free, or use our system to send or request them easily.

New Jersey Public Subcontractor Notice Form - free from

New Jersey Public Subcontractor Notice Form

Subcontractors on a state project must provide written notice within 20 days of first furnishing labor and/or materials to the site.

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New Jersey Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to File Lien Form - free from

New Jersey Notice of Unpaid Balance and Right to File Lien Form

If you do not wish to file a mechanics lien but want to protect your lien priority in the event the property owner sells the...

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