Protecting your lien rights begins by serving the required pre-lien notices. Most states have their own rules and regulations as to what pre-lien notices must be served, and construction parties must be aware of which of these rules apply to them.
Missouri is one of the states where the notice requirements are a bit complicated. The notice requirements in Missouri vary depending on your role in a project, and there are also specific service methods that construction parties must be aware of.
This guide explains the basic information that you must know if you want to serve valid pre-lien notices in Missouri.
- Types of pre-lien notices in Missouri
- When to serve the required Missouri pre-lien notices
- How to serve the required Missouri pre-lien notices
- Best practices when serving Missouri pre-lien notices
Types of pre-lien notices in Missouri
The statutory pre-lien notices in Missouri vary on your level of involvement in a project. There are different requirements if you’re a general contractor, a subcontractor, or a material supplier, and there are also more specific requirements for certain parties working on residential and commercial properties.
For general contractors
All general contractors in Missouri must serve a Notice to Owner. The Notice to Owner basically informs the property owner of the general contractor’s obligations to pay the parties that are working under them. Missouri also requires the notice to contain a warning for property owners about the risk of having to pay twice.
For subcontractors and material suppliers
All subcontractors and material suppliers who do not have a direct contract with the property owner are required to serve a Notice of Intent to Lien. As in most states, a Notice of Intent to Lien informs a property owner of your intention to record a mechanics lien against their property because of an outstanding payment issue.
For parties working on owner-occupied dwellings with four units or fewer
Parties working on owner-occupied residential properties with four units or fewer have another pre-lien notice requirement: the Consent of Owner.
It is the general contractor’s responsibility to secure a Consent of Owner, which must be duly signed by the property owner. The Consent of Owner form states that a property owner is allowing subcontractors and material suppliers to file a mechanics lien if they do not get paid.
The general contractor must secure this consent form from the property owner and furnish copies of it to the parties working under them. Note that subcontractors and material suppliers are expected to secure a signed copy of the Consent of Owner from the general contractor in order to secure their lien rights.
When to serve the required Missouri pre-lien notices
General contractors must serve the Notice to Owner prior to receiving payment from the property owner.
The Notice of Intent to Lien must be served at least 10 days prior to filing the Missouri mechanics lien.
The Consent of Owner must be secured as early as possible. There is no strict deadline for when it must be secured but it must be in the possession of a subcontractor or a material supplier before they can file a valid mechanics lien.
What happens when you fail to serve the required pre-lien notices in Missouri?
Failing to serve the Notice to Owner and the Notice of Intent to Lien will result in the revocation of your lien rights. Failing to have a copy of the Consent of Owner, if you are a lower-tier party working on an owner-occupied residential unit, will also result in the invalidation of your possible mechanics lien claim.
Be aware that all these notices are mandatory – if you want to file a valid mechanics lien, make sure that you comply with the notice requirements that apply to you.
How to serve the required Missouri pre-lien notices
1. Prepare the Missouri pre-lien notice form
Notice to Owner
The Notice to Owner form must have the following disclosure language in 10-point bold type:
NOTICE TO OWNER
FAILURE OF THIS CONTRACTOR TO PAY THOSE PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES TO COMPLETE THIS CONTRACT CAN RESULT IN THE FILING OF A MECHANIC’S LIEN ON THE PROPERTY WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF THIS CONTRACT PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 429, RSMO. TO AVOID THIS RESULT YOU MAY ASK THIS CONTRACTOR FOR “LIEN WAIVERS” FROM ALL PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES FOR THE WORK DESCRIBED IN THIS CONTRACT. FAILURE TO SECURE LIEN WAIVERS MAY RESULT IN YOUR PAYING FOR LABOR AND MATERIAL TWICE.
No other important bits of information are required to be included in the form, but in practice, a Notice to Owner must include the following details:
- Name and address of the property owner
- Your name and address
- The legal description of the property location
Notice of Intent to Lien
The Notice of Intent to Lien must have two important pieces of information: 1) the amount that is due and 2) the name and address of the party that owes you the payment.
Other than these two pieces of information, your Notice of Intent to Lien may also include the following details:
- Name and address of the property owner
- Name and address of the general contractor
- Your name and address
- A description of the work that you have rendered on the property
- A legal description of the property location
Consent of Owner
The Consent of Owner is a simple document that must be signed by the property owner; it must include the following words in 10-point bold type:
CONSENT OF OWNER
CONSENT IS HEREBY GIVEN FOR FILING OF MECHANIC’S LIENS BY ANY PERSON WHO SUPPLIES MATERIALS OR SERVICES FOR THE WORK DESCRIBED IN THIS CONTRACT ON THE PROPERTY ON WHICH IT IS LOCATED IF HE IS NOT PAID.
2. Serve the Missouri pre-lien notice using the appropriate method
The Notice of Owner must be served under the previously mentioned scenarios:
- When the contract is executed
- When the materials are first delivered
- When the work has officially started
- When the first invoice is issued
The notice may be served in person together with the contract or the invoice, or as the first day of work commences.
The Notice of Intent to Lien, on the other hand, must be served via specific methods mandated by Missouri laws. According to the statutory laws in Missouri, the Notice of Intent to Lien must be served
“by any officer authorized by law to serve process in civil actions, or by any person who would be a competent witness.”
Note that when the notice is served by an authorized officer, the officer will endorse an official return receipt which proves that the notice has been served. When served by any other person other than an authorized officer, proof of service must be verified by an affidavit of the person who served the notice.
There are no specific methods prescribed for serving the Consent of Owner, although personal delivery is considered the best way to do so in order to secure the signature from the property owner right away.
Best practices when serving Missouri pre-lien notices
1. Prepare and serve the Notice of Intent to Lien early
Because the Notice of Intent to Lien must be served via a third party, potential lien claimants often encounter issues regarding prompt compliance with the notice requirement. It is considered a best practice to serve the notice way before your deadline for filing a mechanics lien hits – otherwise, you may not have enough time and your lien rights may expire.
2. Ensure proof of service has been secured
The Notice to Owner and the Consent of Owner, if applicable, must be served in person so you can secure an acknowledgment of receipt right away. It is best practice to include the Notice to Owner as part of your contract, just so you get this requirement done as early as possible.
3. Make sure that all the details are accurate
When preparing the pre-lien notice forms, make sure that you include all the required statements in 10-point bold type. Do not modify the statements and instead stick with what’s prescribed by the state laws.
Also, make sure that that the persons signing your documents are the correct parties. A property owner or their authorized agents must sign the Consent of Owner, and all other notices must be signed by an authorized figure.
Be aware that committing fraud with any of these notices is considered a felony in Missouri, so be very diligent in ensuring accuracy in all your documents.