3 Important Details About California's Preliminary Notice Requirement
A 20-day preliminary notice is required on all private & public jobs in California. Determining exactly how to send it, who receives it, and what it must say is all pretty regulated. This guide highlights 3 important details that you need to get right with California's preliminary notice.
Notices Can Never Be Sent Too Early...And Late Notices May Be Okay TooYou may know that the California preliminary notice must be sent within "20 days of first furnishing labor and materials" on the construction project. But, this begs two questions: What happens if the notice is sent early, and what happens if the notice is sent late? Unlike some states (like Ohio), you can never send a preliminary notice too early in California. You can send your preliminary notice weeks or months before the scheduled first delivery (such as when you first sign your contract), and the preliminary notice will be effective. On the flip side, it's possible to send a late preliminary notice in California as well, but the rules are not as liberal. While notices can be sent late in California, they are only effective for labor or materials furnished AFTER the late notice. So, since the notice is a 20-day notice, you can count back 20 days from the notice's actual delivery, and have the protection of lien rights from that point forward.
Keep Good Proof That You Delivered Your Preliminary NoticeYou can send preliminary notices until your blue in the face, but if you can't prove that you sent the preliminary notice...you're toast. There are no formal measurements of proof within the law, unlike for instance, in Arizona where the property owner and general contractor must return a slip indicating receipt of the preliminary notice. So, it's all on you to keep track of your California preliminary notices and keep good detailed records of delivery. A good practice is to (i) Keep the proof of mailing and delivery from the USPS; and (ii) Draft an affidavit of mailing each time you mail out a notice.
No Need To Send Additional Preliminary Notices After Change Orders Or Other Contract AmendmentsCalifornia preliminary notices require you to estimate the total contract amount and indicate that right within the notice. So, what happens if a change order or contract amendment increase or decreases the work? This is a frequently asked question, and thankfully for the sanity of those working in California, an additional preliminary notice is not required. So long as the change is a change order or amendment to the original contract, and not an entirely new contract, California does not require a followup preliminary notice.