Many states have preliminary notice requirements, and they go by various names. In Florida, the preliminary notice is referred to as the “Notice to Owner” or “NTO,” and sending a Florida NTO is required in order to maintain your lien rights on a Florida-based construction project.
All project stakeholders will find our Florida Notice to Owner Resources & FAQs helpful to better understand the notice rules & laws in Florida. This webinar will answer the following questions:
-What is the purpose of a Notice to Owner?
-If I don’t send a Notice to Owner in Florida, can I still file a lien?
-Who needs to send a Florida Notice to Owner?
-Who is required to receive the Notice to Owner in Florida?
-How do I find the owner,GC, lender, or surety?
-When do I need to send my Notice to Owner (Preliminary Notice)?
-Can I send this Notice to Owner early or late?
-When is the Notice to Owner (Preliminary Notice) requirement considered satisfied?
-Are there any cases where I may need to send multiple Notices to Owners?
-What information is included on the Notice to Owner?
-Who actually sends these Notices to Owner?
-How do I start sending Notice to Owner on all of my jobs?
Full Webinar Transcript
Thank you for tuning in. And you know, getting a couple steps closer to being a genius when it comes to Florida. Notices to owner. This, I’m going to try to tell you, you know, everything you need to know, in 20 minutes flat, so in less time than it will take you to eat your lunch, your delicious lunch. We are going to be just running through everything you need to know to be a certified genius in Florida prelims. So whether you’re already sending these documents on all your jobs or you’ve never sent one before, we’re going to have a little something here for everyone today. So just sit back, relax, fuel up with that lunch and I’m going to go ahead and start the clock.
So yeah, like I said, faster than you can eat your lunch, we are going to cover what the purpose of these notices to owners are and what are the rules around sending them in Florida. Then we’re going to move into how you can start sending these notes to owners without adding more work to your already very busy days. And then also I want to touch on how I, how to explain these notices to the people you work with so that they are understanding and are able to relay that information to customers and other people you work with. So let’s go ahead and get started cause we’ve got a decent amount to cover today. First off, what is the Florida notice to owner? So if you are hearing this webinar or if you’re working in Florida, you probably have heard of the notice to owner.
Briefly about what this document is. These are preliminary notices that are sent at the start of all types of construction projects in Florida. So be it a residential job, commercial, state, federal, these notices are going to be coming into play. And the purpose of this Notice to Owner is multilayered. Primarily. It is a visibility document and we like to call all these Preliminary Notices across the country these, these visibility documents because that is the first and foremost the purpose of this document. It’s supposed to let other people know, hey, this is who we are, this is what we’re doing on the job site and this is how to get a hold of us. If you need anything else in order to make this project run smoothly and in order to pay us what we earn. People who are required to receive these notices generally. You know, the general contractors, property owners, lenders, they rely on these notices to paint a picture of all the parties that are working on this project. It makes it easier for them to facilitate smoother payment on the job, because they know of everyone who’s working on that project and who they are responsible for paying
, which brings us to the second purpose here, reducing the risk for the owner, the general contractor, and other parties that might be involved with payment. So these documents are designed for their benefit so that they can avoid surprises and liens on their project. They’re required to protect folks like them from surprises like liens being filed by some unknown contractor or supplier who aren’t getting paid on the job. So sending this notice establishes a line of communication that gives all other parties a better opportunity to prevent any payment issues from developing into, into full blown problems. So really they’re here to empower everyone on the job, whether you’re sending it or receiving it.
And finally, sending a Preliminary Notice like this, this Notice to Owner in Florida is required by law in Florida to preserve the right to file a valid mechanics lien or bond claim in the rare chance that you are not paid for the project. So the Mechanics Lien and a bond claim are really, really powerful tools when you are in a situation of non-payment. And this Notice to Owner is a required prerequisite to filing that lien. So by sending this one document at the start of the job, you have a safety net that you can fall back on by filing that valid claim. If you’re not paid down the line. The problem for contractors and suppliers is that if you never know when your lien rights will be needed, it’s really unfortunate when someone gets stiffed on a job and they’re completely without options because of missing this simple requirement.
And unfortunately we, you know, see this circumstance almost every day. That’s why a lot of people first find levelset, is that they’re in this problem situation where they have not been paid and they want to take the step of filing the lien and maybe they did not send this requirement. And then it gets a little trickier. You can always check out, for example, some frequent questions posted by contractors and suppliers on our expert help center about this very issue. And I’ll make sure to send a link in that for that in the followup email. But you can peruse through and you can see that, that a lot of contractors are sometimes in very difficult and painful positions, when they are not being paid. And you can bet that they would give almost anything to be able to go back in time.
And avoid this situation by sending this very small, simple notice here. So this brings me to one of our most common questions that we get. If I do not send a notice to owner in Florida, can I still file a lien? And the answers the Florida has very specific and strict rules regarding preliminary notices. This notice to owner, most parties on a Florida construction project will lose the ability to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien if they do not deliver this notice to owner with the appropriate time, which depends on your project and your role and we’ll get into the specifics a little on that a little later. but bottom line is no, your mechanics lien might not hold up in court in Florida if you do not send this notice to owner.
So who needs to send this, this Florida notice to owner. That’s the first thing, right? You might be thinking, do I need to send this? The short answer is that all contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers and vendors who did not contract directly with the property owner need to send the notice to owners. So generally this excludes the general contractor, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not common for general contractors to send us notice as well. Again, for that primary purpose of promoting visibility and opening lines of communication. Now there are a few exceptions to this rule. The first of which is if you are an individual wage laborer, for instance, you know, employees, project participants, let’s say you’re hired by an electrical subcontractor to work on a project, for example. Those wage individual wage laborers are not required to send this notice to owner. Second exception here, architects, engineers and other design professionals are also not required to send this notice to owner. And then also the third is, are participants providing subdivision improvements? So improvements made for the purpose of making a site suitable for construction are not required to send preliminary notice to owner. So besides those three situations, pretty much everyone else is required to send this notice to owner.
So who is required to receive this notice. While it’s obvious that this notice is called a notice to owner, so it should be sent to the property owner. There are also other parties that are required to receive this document. So, a helpful way to think of it is, you know, thinking of sending this document up the payment chain and that’s kind of the requirement in Florida is that this notice be sent up this payment chain from you. So that means that, you know, first-tier subs should send the notice to the GC as well as the owner and sub subs should be sending it, send the notice to the owner, the GC and the sub that hired them and also anyone else that might be involved on the project. Ao Florida makes these potential. Other people, other parties, other stakeholders known through a document called the notice of commencement.
It’s actually a requirement of the property owner to publicly file this notice of commencement at the beginning of the project so that everyone working on a project knows about the various parties involved. Additionally, Florida also allows the property owner to designate some specific party to receive notice in addition to themselves. So this is known as an owner designee. And they must be identified on this notice of commencement as well. So, and you know, note that this rule sending the document to anyone up the payment chain is only for commercial and residential or residential private jobs. On public jobs there is still a 45 day notice to owner requirement for subcontractors and suppliers, but Florida only specifically requires that preliminary notice on public projects to be sent to the general contractor. However, it is best practice to send this document to people like the surety bond company if known or the public entity that the owner of that public project as well. Again, going back to that most important purpose: promoting visibility and opening lines of communication.
So this is definitely where some people start to get worried because it can be really difficult to know who those required parties are who the owner is, who the general contractor is, who if, if there’s a lender and who it is, it’s extremely common to not have that simple information when trying to prepare this notice to owner. So there are a couple options here. First it’s always a good idea to search for that notice of commencement at the start of the project. Like I said, this is a public document. It should be pretty easy to find and all the information that you need should be on that notice. You may also be able to use a building permit phase information. So doing your own research at the start of a job is always an option for you. However, most folks using levelset do hire us to do that project research for you so that there’s less on your plate. That’s a huge part of your partnership with level set is the fact that you have our scout research team available to personally investigate your projects. That’s their job. They are experts in finding project and stakeholder information so that you can have peace of mind that these documents will reach, you know, the, the proper hands at the required recipients here.
So when do I need to send my notice to owner, once I’m ready to send it out and I know the people that it’s going to? Generally the preliminary notice this, this notice to owner must be provided within 45 days of first furnishing Labor or materials, to the project. Now there are a couple, like my new details to note here. If you are specially fabricating materials for the project, those 45 days start from when work began on making those specially fabricated materials. If that date is earlier than the day that you were on the job site for the first time. And also it is specifically mandated that the notice be provided before the date of the owner’s disbursement of the final payment to either the general contractor or to the sub contractor. So really, how does, how to think about is that this document has to go out by of these deadlines hits first. know that was a bit of a mouthful. It’s a lot to keep track of. So really the best practice here, and what we see most folks doing is sending this document as early as they can so that they know they are going to be within those 45 days no matter which of those deadlines hit first.
Can I send this notice to owner early or late? So keep in mind, yeah, 45 days is only the deadline marking the latest that this notice can be provided. However, Florida statute makes it clear that a notice to owner cannot be provided too early. So Florida Lien Law specifically empowers parties to send a preliminary notice as early as they want. But on the other side of it, don’t make the mistake of sending this notice to owner late. While Florida’s lien law is clear with respect to sending notices early, um, you know, it’s a good thing. Go ahead and send them as early as you can. The law is the exact opposite when it comes to sending these notices late. Failure to provide this notice to owner within the statutorily mandated timeframe is fatal to your lien claim in Florida. So if you send this late, you no longer will, your lien claim will not necessarily be valid and enforceable in court if you have to bring it to there.
When is the prelim requirement considered satisfied? So is it when it’s mailed or when it’s delivered? The preliminary notice, this notice to owner is considered delivered at the time of mailing. But keep in mind only if that notice is sent within 40 days of first furnishing labor materials. Otherwise that notice is considered served on the date of receipt. So again, best practice since you can’t send this notice too early in Florida and you certainly can send it too late and get in trouble there. Get these notices out as early as possible. As soon as you’ve got the job information, send it out so that you are clear and protected. Also this notice must be delivered by certified mail or personal delivery with evidence of delivery. So it’s important to not only deliver this notice but to keep evidence of the delivery so that you can later prove compliance with this requirement.
Are there any cases where I may need to send multiple notice to owners? So if the work spans over multiple lots parcels, tracks of land, one notice to owner is still acceptable as long as they are owned by the same owner and there’s only one contract, one prime contract. If there’s more than one prime contract, um, and or owner, then you’ll want to send multiple notice to. And even if it’s not necessarily required, it’s definitely the safest way to proceed. So what information is included on this document? In the Florida’s notice to owner it’s a pretty regulated documents. So the law specifically outlines what language and what specific project details must be included on the document, including a specific warning to the property owner about what lien rights are and how they can protect themselves from having a lien filed on their property by making sure the contractors are paid in full. So really these documents again are there to empower the property owner. So up here we have an example of levelset’s Preliminary Notice format. So all of our prelims have this first friendly professional cover page provides all of your information, and the job site information. And then on the next pages are where we’ll include all that statutorily required language. So it is a completely legal document that is protecting your lien rights.
Who actually sends these documents? That short and sweet answer is everyone. And let me show you some recent numbers I pulled here. You know, so just last month, uh, through level-set we exchange 1,480 notice to owners. That was an average of nine of these per our customer in Florida. And I have these, we have a customer map or you can type in a zip code and see, you know, who’s using level set in your area. And keep in mind, this is only through levelset. So there are many companies that are sending these documents as well or, maybe customers who are doing this the hard way by sending them in house. So there are a lot of notices to owner going out even outside of this number.
So how do I start sending these on all of my jobs? Let us take it off your plate. Starting a new process can be intimidating. It’s a lot to learn. As you can see, there’s a lot of little details to keep straight and organized. And that’s why we exist at levelset here. We are here to save you time and make it easy. So that you are adding extra work to your plate and you are still protected. So you still have the right to file a lien if need be. As soon as you give us the project information and the days that you are beginning work, we will start to calculate all of the deadlines for you and we’ll help you comply with all of the requirements based on your role and the type of project you’re working on.
We have all the right forms available. And we will help you, you know, research project research to make sure, you know that all the project information is correct and that all of the required recipients are there and that you have all of that, you know, required recipient information. And then we’ll actually mail the documents for you. So, we’ll get them out by us certified mail. Uh, according to the statutory requirement, we’re gonna upload documentation and proof of mailing to your levelset account where it’s stored indefinitely so you can access it whenever you need. So really we can just take care of all of it for you from telling you at the forefront what’s required of you and when it’s required, and then walking you through the process and then actually sending it for you.
And if you’re really looking to save time, our Florida customers love taking advantage of our low touch features. And there were a couple of different options here. You know, one example is a queue where you can set up, a document rule as we call them. And with that rule, the account itself will actually create and send these documents for you without you having to do anything besides putting in that job information and giving us the date, the account will, you know, it’s constantly working in the background, almost like another employee for you sending these notices out for you. So you don’t even have to click the buttons. And you have data in ports where you can, you know, if you have a ton of jobs and it feels like a big job to get them all into levelset, you can import bulk data or integrate it with your project management systems.
And then finally we have a scout ultimate research team, which is our best in class research service that goes above and beyond, uh, by making calls on your behalf to identify the most difficult to find stakeholders. Like the general contractor, this surety, the lender all levelset subscribers, have scout research on all of their jobs in documents, there’s different levels. So this scout ultimate is our top tier here where again, we’re making phone calls in order to find the really tricky stakeholders like, you know, the, the surety and the lender.
And then, you know, another aspect of rolling out this new process is communicating it to the people you work with and selling them on why this is a good idea. So that they are, you know, really behind it, they believe in it as well. And so that they can also communicate with your customers if they’re customer-facing about these documents, you know, maybe why they’re receiving them, what they are as well as continuing to communicate it throughout your company. And we have plenty of ways to help with this process as well. So, first we have a free construction legal center. So if you have any more questions, you know, specifically on, on the legal side of things, we have a team of attorneys here, a team of experts that you can submit a question, it’s completely free, anonymous, and they’ll respond to you within two business days with some more information right to your email. Second, we actually have communication templates, customer calls, scripts to, you know, help your coworkers, you know, talk about these notices with other people. And then finally I’ve got a plug: our support team, they’re amazing fast experts support where you can access that in, in the app itself, in level set with the live chat, but they also have a number and an email address. And they are very, and they’re all experts on, you know, lean law and level-set itself. So great place to go for additional, you know, help and resources here.
So finally, you know, what will you do after this call today? What are your action items? What are you going to be logging into level set if you’re already a subscriber and adding some new projects that are starting soon. So that you can get those notices out asap. Or maybe you have some jobs that you’re already working on that you’re in progress and you haven’t sent that notice to owner yet. So maybe it’s time to, you know, send, send it out if you’re still within those 45 days and maybe you have some jobs that you know you’re done with them and you’re still waiting on payment, you know, even if it’s late, you can still send this, uh, preliminary notice this notice to owner for that benefit of visibility and communication. Or maybe the job is done, but you’re still within 45 days. So you know, whatever your situation is, it’s a good idea to kind of get a handle on, on your situation, any upcoming deadlines. And you know, remember that levelset, you know, we’re here payment, help us here. Whatever your situation is, to ensure that you are getting what you earned. Thanks again for tuning in and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or anything else I can help you with.