Sending a Rhode Island preliminary notice is an effective way to speed up payment on a construction project. A preliminary notice is an informational document typically sent to the property owner near the beginning of a construction project. Here's what you need to know about the rules and requirements for sending preliminary notice in Rhode Island.
If you're sending preliminary notices in Rhode Island, it's important to get all the details right - especially since sending the notice late or incorrectly can have significant consequences. Likewise, if you're receiving prelims, it's important to know what you're looking at and know what to do in followup. Since prelims are subject to a lot of complex rules and requirements, this can all be a difficult and tedious process. These are some frequently asked questions about the Rhode Island preliminary notice process.
Who needs to send a Rhode Island preliminary notice?
All direct contractors, i.e. those who contracted directly with the property owner, lessee, or other owner with less than a fee simple interest, are required to provide a Notice of Possible Mechanics Lien.
What information is required on a Rhode Island preliminary notice?
The Notice of Possible Mechanics Lien in Rhode Island is governed under RI Gen. Laws §34-28-4.1 and must read as follows:
NOTICE OF POSSIBLE MECHANIC’S Lien
To: Insert name of owner, lessee or tenant, or owner of less than the the fee simple
The undersigned is about to perform work and/or furnish materials for the construction, erection, alterations, or repaid upon the land at (INSERT ADDRESS) under contract with you. This is a notice that the undersigned and any other persons who provide labor and materials for the improvement under contract with the undersigned may file a mechanic’s lien upon the land in the event of nonpayment to them. It is your responsibility to assure yourself that those other persons under contract with the undersigned receive payment for their work performed and materials furnished for the construction, erection, alteration or repair upon the land.
What if I send a Rhode Island preliminary notice late?
If the Notice of Possible Mechanics Lien is not provided within the statutory time period, it is fatal to that contractor’s lien claim.
Further, the general who fails to give the notice must “indemnify and hold harmless any owner, lessee or tenant, or owner of less than the fee simple from any payment or costs incurred on account of any liens claims by those not in privity with them, unless such owner, lessee or tenant, or owner of less that the fee simple shall not have paid such person”.
Is a Rhode Island preliminary notice required on public projects?
No. Rhode Island does not require preliminary notice to preserve rights on public projects. However, sending preliminary notice even when not required is generally beneficial to promote visibility, open channels for communication, and streamline payment.
People are asking Rhode Island construction attorneys:
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.
Rhode Island is interesting in that it imposes more preliminary notice requirements on direct contractors than it does on sub-tier parties. Generally, since preliminary notices are mostly ultimately designed to provide project visibility into parties that otherwise might go unnoticed, more strict preliminary notice requirements follow the farther down the payment chain a participant is.
Rhode Island, however, does not follow that path and instead potentially requires additional notice from direct contractors – presumably pursuant to the impression that a warning in the contract or otherwise from the GC will be more noticeable than a different unrelated document coming from a sub-tier party.
Additionally, all parties contracting directly with the property owner, lessee, or tenant(other than materials suppliers) must provide a very specific notice “either incorporated conspicuously in a written contract or sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, any time prior to commencing work or delivery of materials.” This notice is set out by § 34-28-4.1, and must include the specific following wording:
“NOTICE OF POSSIBLE MECHANIC’S LIEN To: Insert name of owner, lessee or tenant, or owner of less than the fee simple. The undersigned is about to perform work and/or furnish materials for the construction, erection, alterations, or repair upon the land at (INSERT ADDRESS) under contract with you. This is a notice that the undersigned and any other persons who provide labor and materials for the improvement under contract with the undersigned may file a mechanic’s lien upon the land in the event of nonpayment to them. It is your responsibility to assure yourself that those other persons under contract with the undersigned receive payment for their work performed and materials furnished for the construction, erection, alteration or repair upon the land.”
With respect, finally, to parties in addition to a direct contractor. Rhode Island requires that all project participants provide a notice of intent to lien to the property owner not later than 200 days after the project participant’s last furnishing of labor or materials to the project. Rhode Island’s notice of intent is unique in that the notice itself is the first part of a subsequent lien claim, which may be perfected after the notice is sent to the owner by filing the notice document itself.
How to send preliminary notice in Rhode Island (DIY)
Our free forms were created by construction attorneys to meet Rhode Island’s language and formatting requirements. We make this part easy for you to get right.
Fill out the form
Be careful! Accuracy is important.
This part can get tricky because making a mistake when filling out your preliminary notice could forfeit your right to file a Rhode Island mechanics lien if you go unpaid. Include all necessary information and make sure it’s completely accurate.
Deliver your notice
Lastly, send the notice to the property owner. You can serve the notice via personal service, registered mail, or certified mail, return receipt requested. Make sure you retain proof the notice was sent.
How to send a Preliminary Notice with Levelset
Select Preliminary Notice document.
Provide basic job information.
Levelset sends the document for you. Postage included!