About Tennessee preliminary notice rules
Note: Tennessee updated the notice rules as of July 1, 2020. The information on this page has been updated to reflect the changes.
Tennessee requires two different preliminary notices on private construction projects – one for general contractors (on specific types of projects) and another for sub-tier parties. There are no notice requirements on public construction projects.
All construction project participants are generally required to provide some type of preliminary notice before they are allowed to file a claim under Tennessee’s mechanics lien rules. This is true no matter what tier of the payment chain the participant inhabits.
For home improvement contracts, additional “notice” language must actually be built into the contract between the general contractor and the owner. There are no notice requirements on such projects for parties other than direct contractors.
Notice to Owner
For owner-occupied 1-4 family residential buildings in Tennessee, notice is specifically required for all project participants. Direct contractors (those who have a contract with the owner) are required to furnish a Notice to Owner prior to commencing work on the project or making of the contract. This notice requirement is set forth by Tennessee Code § 66-11-203 and the form for the notice, which must be substantially followed, is included in that section. By the wording of the statute, it appears that a notice provided after the contract is executed, but prior to the commencement of work on the project would be timely.
Notice of Non-Payment
Tennessee subcontractors, suppliers, and all other parties who don’t contract directly with the property owner have a deadline much later in the project than the deadline for direct contractors. Sub-tier parties must deliver their notice within 90 days of the last day of each month in which labor and/or materials were provided but remain unpaid. This means that if labor or material was last delivered on June 5th, the notice deadline would be 90 days from June 30.
An interesting note, however, is that Tennessee’s preliminary notice requirement – while not technically a notice of intent to lien – has a deadline far enough after the work is performed or material furnished that the requirement is dependent on amounts remaining unpaid. If the amount are paid within 90 days, there is no need to send a preliminary notice, and if the only amounts remaining unpaid are retainage amounts, no notice is technically required. It’s also worth noting that this notice requirement is a “monthly” notice requirement, and that a notice of nonpayment is due for and after each month in which labor or material were furnished but are not paid by the deadline.
A lien is not valid without a timely notice.