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California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects: Who Must Serve and When

California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects: Who Must Serve and When

March 19, 2020

Preliminary notices are very important in protecting your right to get paid for the construction work that you’ve done. In California, preliminary notices are required not only for private projects but also for public projects for which parties make a bond claim in cases of payment disputes and delays.

This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of serving a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects. It explains which parties are required to serve this specific preliminary notice, the consequences of failing to serve the notice on time, and the best practices that you must keep in mind to make sure that your bond rights are protected.

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Send a preliminary notice in California in 60 seconds

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Who must serve a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects?

All parties working on a public works project who do not have a direct contract with the project’s general contractor are required to serve a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects. If you are a subcontractor or a material supplier and you have no direct contractual relationship with the general contractor, it is vital that you serve a valid preliminary notice for public projects in California.

The only parties exempted from serving a California Preliminary Notice are those who are directly contracting with the general contractor and those who only perform labor. Laborers are not mandated to serve a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects.

When to serve a California Preliminary Notice for Public Project

The California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects must be served within 20 days of the first day you start working on a project. You, therefore, have 20 days following your first day of work to submit a valid preliminary notice for public projects in California.

Service of the notice is complete upon mailing, and a tracking record is enough proof that delivery has been attempted.

What happens if you fail to serve a valid California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects?

Failing to serve a valid California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects when required to do so will nullify your right to make a claim against the payment bond of your project. Without a valid preliminary notice, you will also not be allowed to issue a stop notice.

This means that if you are one of the parties required to serve a preliminary notice for public projects, you must absolutely fulfill this requirement to maintain your legal rights in recovering payment in case of delays and disputes.

Note that previous versions of the law allowed a party to serve a written notice to the surety and bond principal in lieu of a preliminary notice. However, the law has already been amended so that parties who are required to serve a preliminary notice will no longer have a cushion if they fail to serve a valid preliminary notice for public projects on time.

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How to serve a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects

1. Prepare the California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects form
2. Serve the California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects on the required parties

1. Prepare the California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects form

There is no standard form for a California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects, but it must generally contain the following information:

  • The name and address of the public entity that commissioned the project
  • The name and address of the general contractor
  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the party with whom you have a direct contract
  • A general description of the services to be furnished to the project
  • The estimated total price of services to be provided

Make sure that the information included in your California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects is accurate. Note that you can serve a formal request for information on the party who hired you if you are missing some of the required details.

2. Serve the California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects on the required parties

Once your California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects is ready, you have to serve it on the following parties:

  • the public entity that commissioned the project
  • the project’s general contractor (the party who has a direct contract with the public entity)
  • the disbursing officer of the construction department (if the project was commissioned by the Department of Public Works or the Department of General Services)

The California Preliminary Notice for Public Projects may be served via the following methods:

  • personal delivery
  • first-class mail
  • registered or certified mail

Make sure that you keep copies of all the mailing receipts and documents. If serving via in-person delivery, let the recipient sign an acknowledgment of receipt form. These documentations will be useful to prove that you have duly complied with California’s preliminary notice requirement.

Best practices when serving a Preliminary Notice for Public Projects in California

1. Write a formal request for information if needed

One common issue that subcontractors and material suppliers face when preparing a California Twenty-Day Preliminary Notice for Public Projects is not knowing the required information for the preliminary notice.

If you are not sure about the name(s) and address(es) of the public entity or the general contractor, you can serve a written request for information on the party who hired you. They usually provide the required information or refer you to other resources that can give you the details that you need. You can ask for information as early as the day you learn that you will be working on a project.

2. Serve the Preliminary Notice for Public Projects as early as possible

When you have all the required information, completing the California Preliminary Notice for Public Works Projects should be quick. You are encouraged to serve this very important preliminary notice as early as possible, preferably on your first day of work or well before the 20-day window elapses.

Note that parties required to serve a California preliminary notice for public projects no longer have the option of serving a separate written notice on the bond principal in lieu of a preliminary notice. Failing to send a valid preliminary notice for public projects within the first 20 days of work will result in the revocation of your rights to claim a payment bond.

3. Keep copies of all mailing and service documents

If you decided to serve your California preliminary notice for public projects via personal delivery, make sure that you keep a signed acknowledgment of receipt form. If you mail your preliminary notice, choose the return receipt option.

It is generally good business practice to keep copies of all important documents, including your mailing records and receipts. By tracking all relevant paperwork, you will be able to prove that you have duly complied with California’s preliminary notice requirements in case it gets questioned.

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