Construction Frequently
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Preliminary Notice FAQ

There are multiple types of Iowa preliminary notices.

The Iowa Notice of Commencement is a document filed by general contractors working on single- or two-unit residential projects. Filing the Notice of Commencement is done via Iowa’s Mechanics’ Notice of Lien Registry (MNLR).

A regular Iowa preliminary notice is a letter sent by lower-tier construction participants to a property owner or a general contractor at the beginning of a project. Some participants may also be required to file this notice via the MNLR. As in many states, serving this preliminary notice is required for certain parties to secure a right to lien.

For owner-occupied residential projects, general contractors are required to file a Notice of Commencement in the MNLR. General contractors are also required to deliver a list of subcontractors and material suppliers to the property owner [i].

Also for residential projects, all parties including subcontractors and material suppliers are required to file an Iowa preliminary notice in the MNLR. [ii]

For commercial projects, all parties that do not have a direct contract with the property owner or the general contractor (e.g. sub-subcontractors) are required to serve an Iowa preliminary notice. This Iowa preliminary notice is not filed through the MNLR and is instead delivered to the general contractor. [iii]

For residential projects, general contractors must file the Notice of Commencement in the MNLR within 10 days of your first day of work.

Lower-tier contractors and suppliers must file the preliminary notice before the property owner issues payment to the general contractor. There is no specific deadline for lower-tier participants, but you are advised to serve the preliminary notice as early as possible.

For commercial projects, the Iowa preliminary notice must be served within 30 days of the day you first furnish materials or labor to the project.

If you don’t send an Iowa preliminary notice when required, you lose your lien rights.

Intent To File FAQ

An Iowa notice of intent to lien is sent before the filing of a mechanics lien becomes necessary. Although only a number of states require that this notice be sent, many construction participants send a notice of intent to lien as an uncostly way to have payments for invoices settled.

No, an Iowa notice of intent to lien is not required in the lien process. However, you may still send one to remind your client about an outstanding payment.

In Iowa, a notice of intent to lien may be sent 10 days before filing a mechanics lien. It advises the owner of your intention to record a lien if the payment is not satisfied.

Failing to send an Iowa notice of intent to lien has no effect on your lien rights because this notice is not required in Iowa.

Mechanics Lien FAQ

An Iowa mechanics lien is an effective tool that helps make sure you will be paid for the construction materials and/or labor you supplied. It is a legal claim that can effectively recover payment for contractors and suppliers.

This means that if you file a valid mechanics lien in Iowa and you do not get paid for your work, you have the right to enforce the lien through a lawsuit. This enforcement action can either prompt the client to settle or force the sale of the property. The proceeds of the sale will be used to settle your unpaid bill.

In Iowa, a mechanics lien is filed through the MNLR.

If you successfully file an Iowa mechanics lien, you have an interest in the improved property. When a mechanics lien is filed on the property you worked on, the property becomes collateral for uncollected payments.

According to Iowa Code 572.2, any party who performs construction, repair, or alteration work on a building or land has lien rights. This includes general contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment lessors, etc. [iv]

A mechanics lien in Iowa must be filed within 90 days of your last day of work, which is the day when you last furnished labor or materials to the project. [v]

Note that a mechanics lien in Iowa may be filed within 2 years beyond the 90-day deadline, but the coverage of the claim is limited to the amount that is yet to be paid to the general contractor. [vi]

An Iowa mechanics lien is enforceable within 2 years and 90 days after your last day of work [vii]. A claimant must therefore enforce a mechanics lien within this period or the mechanics lien expires.

A property owner may shorten this deadline by issuing a demand to enforce a lien. When you receive such a written demand, you have 30 days after the receipt date to initiate legal action to enforce your Iowa mechanics lien. [viii]

The Iowa mechanics lien must contain the following information [ix]:

  • A verified statement of account of the demand, including the amount being claimed
  • The date when materials were first furnished or labor first performed, and the date on which the last of the material was furnished or the last of the labor was performed.
  • The legal description that adequately describes the property to be charged with the lien.
  • The name and last known mailing address of the owner of the property.
  • The address of the property or a description of the location of the property if the property cannot be reasonably identified by an address.
    The tax parcel identification number

Iowa does not have specific license requirements for its potential lien claimants.

According to Iowa Code 572.23, a claimant must acknowledge satisfaction of the lien within 30 days upon receiving a written demand to do so. An acknowledgement of satisfaction of the lien must be filed in the MNLR within the 30-day period to avoid having to pay penalties. [x]

Both the “pay-if-paid” and “pay-when-paid” clauses are enforceable in Iowa.


[i] Iowa Code § 572.13-572.13A  

[ii] Iowa Code § 572.13B

[iii] Iowa Code § 572.33

[iv] Iowa Code § 572.2

[v] Iowa Code § 572.9

[vi] Iowa Code § 572.10

[vii] Iowa Code § 572.27

[viii] Iowa Code § 572.28

[ix] Iowa Code § 572.8

[x] Iowa Code § 572.3 provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to contractors and others who are seeking information regarding preliminary notices, intent to file, mechanics lien, and other construction questions. These are provided for informational purposes only, and we cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.

Iowa documents

Miller Act

The Miller Act protects the rights of subcontractors working on or who have worked on government projects.


Waivers release your right to file a mechanics lien in case of non-payment. Some have conditions so ensure you're sending the correct lien waiver type.