The California 20 Day Preliminary Notice is sometimes referred to as the preliminary notice, the pre-lien, the pre-lim, or the 20-day notice. Download our sample preliminary notice for private works.
The preliminary notice is the most misunderstood document in the construction industry.
The purpose of the notice is to alert the property owner, the construction lender, the bonding company and the prime contractor of the existence of subcontractors and material suppliers and that these contractors and suppliers have lien rights.
Subcontractors must serve the preliminary notice on the owner, the prime contractor, the construction lender and the bonding company. Until recently, second tier subcontractors also had to serve the hiring subcontractor.
All tiers of subcontractors and material suppliers have to serve this notice. A prime contractor who been hired by the property owner has a contractual relationship with the property owner and does not have to serve the notice because the property owner is aware of the contractor.
Specialty contractors doing business with an owner-builder should serve this notice to the owner and the construction lender.
If you have any doubt as to whether you are required to serve the notice, serve the notice. If you have any doubt as to who gets the notice, give it everyone.
You cannot file a valid mechanic's lien or a stop payment notice unless you have served the preliminary notice. Obtain the information you need to serve the preliminary notice from the prime contractor when you sign the contract or from the building permit and/or the county recorder's office.
You should serve the preliminary notice as soon as you have the necessary information. There is no such thing as serving the preliminary notice too early.
If you fail to serve a preliminary notice within the first 20 days after you furnish labor and/or material, serve it ASAP because you still have lien rights for labor and material furnished 20 days prior to serving the preliminary notice.
If you file the preliminary notice with the county recorder the recorder will notify you when a notice of completion or a notice of cessation is recorded. Do not rely solely on the recorder. You should also keep track of the time in case the recorder is slow or forgets. Subs only have 30 days (primes have 60 days) after a notice of completion or a notice of cessation is recorded to file a mechanic's lien or stop payment notice.
If you do not care about getting paid for the job do not serve a preliminary notice.