Articles > Construction law in California

The Private Works - Preliminary Notice
– Are You Using the Correct Form?

by William L. Porter, Esq.

The Private Works - Preliminary Notice form which contractors, subcontractors and suppliers had become accustomed to using for many years changed in 2004. Despite this change in law, many in the construction industry have still not started using the correct new form.  Changes in the law, championed by the American Subcontractors’ Association, gave a significant new benefit to subcontractors and suppliers by giving the subcontractor or supplier some expectation of actually receiving notice of when a Notice of Completion or a Notice of Cessation has been recorded on many private works projects. The law also changed the language of the California Preliminary Notice that subcontractors and suppliers must use to protect their mechanics’ lien, bond claim and stop payment notice rights.  If Owners do not send out the Notice of Completion as required by law they incur a diminishing of the protections afforded to them when they record a Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation on many private works projects.

The revised law requires private project owners to notify all subcontractors and suppliers within 10 days after recording a Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation that a Notice of Completion or a Notice of Cessation has actually been recorded.  In order to receive such notice, the subcontractor or supplier must properly serve the new form of Preliminary Notice. If this properly occurs and the private project owner provides the required notice, then the subcontractor or supplier will have 30 days to record a Mechanics’ Lien. However, if an owner under such circumstances fails to properly notify a subcontractor or supplier within 10 days after recording a Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation, then the Subcontractor or supplier will have 90 days to record a Mechanics’ Lien.  The details of the law can be found in California Civil Code sections 8190, 8414 and 8416.

In order to benefit from the new law the subcontractor or supplier must add the following new language, in boldface type, to the Preliminary Notice they are using under the section entitled “NOTICE TO PROPERTY OWNER”: The required language now reads as follows:

NOTICE TO PROPERTY OWNER:

EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE PAID YOUR CONTRACTOR IN FULL, if the person or firm that has given you this notice is not paid in full for labor, service, equipment, or material provided or to be provided to your construction project, a lien may be placed on your property. Foreclosure of the lien may lead to loss of all or part of your property. You may wish to protect yourself against this by (1 requiring your contractor to provide a signed release by the person or firm that has given you this notice before making payment to your contractor, or (2) any other method that is appropriate under the circumstances. This notice is required by law to be served by the undersigned as a statement of your legal rights. This notice is not intended to reflect upon the financial condition of the contractor or the person employed by you on the construction project. If you record a notice of cessation or completion of your construction project, you must within 10 days after recording, send a copy of the notice of completion to your contractor and the person or firm that has given you this notice. The notice must be sent by registered or certified mail. Failure to send the notice will extend the deadline to record a claim of lien. You are not required to send the notice if you are a residential homeowner of a dwelling containing four or fewer units.

Please note that the new law does not apply to public works projects or owner-occupied personal residences of less than 5 units. Moreover, the new law does not apply to those subcontractors and suppliers who fail to serve a Preliminary Notice at all or, of course, when no Notice of Completion or Notice of Cessation has been recorded.

If you have not already done so, please be sure to update your Preliminary Notice forms as soon as possible.  Failure to do so could result in loss of legal rights important for the collection of debt for work performed and materials supplied to private works projects


Article written by William L. Porter, Esq. and revised in 2014 Mr. Porter is a principal in The Porter Law Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. He can be reached by phone at (916) 381-7868.