Everyone who works in the construction industry in California should pay attention to the California’s preliminary notice requirements. The statute changed in July of 2012, so anything you read that was written before that date is likely to lead you astray.
If you are a contractor or materials supplier for a construction project in California and you need to place a mechanics lien on the project due to non-payment, you may be required to provide notice before you can file a lien. This is your preliminary notice or “Preliminary 20-day Notice” as it’s commonly called. This notice is a written communication from you (the claimant) that is sent to the owner of the property prior to recording a mechanics lien. This may be sent when the owner neglects to pay you for work performed or when the owner pays the general contractor who then does not pay down the line of subcontractors in turn. Providing notice before filing a lien gives the owner time to rectify the problem.
If you are a laborer on a project, in other words you’re providing purely labor work and not materials, you may not have to send a preliminary notice. Also, if you’re in direct contact with the owner, you may not need to send a preliminary notice in California. This means that you’ve either signed a contract with the owner directly instead of with a general contractor or if the owner has actual knowledge that construction work is being performed on his property. In that situation, you may only need to send notice to the construction lender, if one exists.
Specific information needs to be included in your notice. California preliminary notices must contain, at a minimum, the following information and text:
- Name and address of the owner or reputed owner
- Name and address of the director contractor
- Name and address of the construction lender, if any
- Description of the site sufficient for identification, including the street address of the site, if any
- Name, address, and relationship to the parties of the person giving notice
- General statement of the work provided
- The name of the person to or for whom the work is provided
- An estimate of the total price of the work to be provided
- A legal notice statement in boldface type
Once your notice is ready to go, California’s preliminary notice laws require you to send the notice to some or all of the following people/entities: the owner, the original contractor, and the construction lender. You may not have all these parties involved in a project, or you may not be required to send notice to all parties if you’re contracting directly with the owner, but make sure to send it to everyone else.
20 days after you first furnished labor or materials to the job site is your deadline for sending the preliminary notice. If your notice is later than 20 days, it can still be valid but it will only cover services rendered within 20 days of when it was sent. This means you want to send your preliminary notice shortly after you begin working in order to preserve your right to file a mechanics lien, if that becomes necessary.
Once your California preliminary notice is ready to go, you have a few options in how to deliver it. You can deliver the document in person, you can leave it at the residence or business with someone in charge, or you can send it by registered or certified mail. Whichever method of delivery you choose, make sure to keep a record of the date of delivery, the method of delivery, any necessary details that show how delivery was handled, and a copy of the notice for your records.
The attorneys at National Lien & Bond can not only help you put together an accurate California preliminary notice, they can also help you deliver it properly to all necessary parties and track your timing so that you don’t lose any rights to file a mechanics lien.