About Rhode Island Preliminary Notices
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.
One of the “preliminary notice” requirements imposed upon direct contractors is actually a contractual provision. In all written contracts entered into between a contractor a property owner, there must be a specific “statement that the contractor, subcontractors, or materialpersons may file a lien in accordance with the Rhode Island Mechanics Lien Act.” This provide the warning of a preliminary notice, but unfortunately, not the actionable or otherwise helpful information, since the property owner will still likely be unaware of who, exactly, will be on the job at sub-tier levels.
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.