Most states require potential mechanics lien claimants to serve a preliminary notice before they can file a mechanics lien. This way, property owners will know how to protect themselves against dubious lien claims, and they can also track which entities could potentially file a mechanics lien against their property.
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Ohio is one of these so-called “notice states.” In Ohio, certain construction participants must serve a preliminary notice—also known as Notice of Furnishing—in order to preserve their lien rights. This guide walks you through the process of serving a valid Ohio preliminary notice.
Who must serve a preliminary notice in Ohio?
Parties who have no direct contractual relationship with the property owner are obligated to serve an Ohio Notice of Furnishing. However, this requirement only stands if the property owner files a valid Notice of Commencement.
If the property owner does not file a Notice of Commencement, no construction participant is required to serve the owner a preliminary notice. Still, it is best practice to serve a preliminary notice in Ohio with or without a Notice of Commencement.
When do you serve a Notice of Furnishing in Ohio?
The Ohio Notice of Furnishing must be served on the property owner and the general contractor within the first 21 days of your first day of work. Your first day of work corresponds to the day you start physically furnishing labor or materials to the project.
If the Notice of Commencement is filed later after the project has already begun, you are required to serve the Notice of Furnishing within 21 days of the date the Notice of Commencement is filed.
What happens if you fail to serve a Notice of Furnishing in Ohio?
You are not allowed to file an enforceable mechanics lien in Ohio unless you first serve a valid Notice of Furnishing on the property owner.
Note, however, that failing to serve the preliminary notice within your first 21 days of work is not necessarily fatal to your lien rights. You can still deliver an Ohio preliminary notice to the property owner and the general contractor after this 21-day period has passed.
However, an Ohio mechanics lien can only cover the services that you performed starting from 21 days prior to the date you served your Notice of Furnishing. If you want to protect your full lien rights, it is best practice to ensure that you serve your Ohio preliminary notice within the initial 21 days of working on a project.
How to serve an Ohio preliminary notice
1. Prepare the Ohio preliminary notice form
Section 1311.05 of the Ohio Code provides the following Notice of Furnishing template:
Your Ohio preliminary notice form must substantially be in the same format as the template above.
Filling out the form is as easy as providing the correct information in the appropriate blanks:
1. Name and address of owner
You may find this information in the Notice of Commencement
2. Name and address of original contractor
You may find this information in the Notice of Commencement
3. Name and address of the party who hired you
These are the details of the party who directly contracted you for the project
4. Description of the property location
This can be the legal property description
5. Date of first furnishing services to the project
This is the date of your first day of work
6. Name and address of the lien claimant
This is your business’ information
7. Name, address, and capacity (designation) of the party signing for the lien claimant
These are the details of the person who is signing on your company’s behalf
8. Date the Notice of Furnishing is signed
This is the date when you sign the notice
2. Deliver the Ohio preliminary notice form to the property owner and the general contractor
After filling in your Ohio Notice of Furnishing template, you may not serve it on both the property owner and the general contractor.
Be sure to file the Notice of Furnishing within 21 days of the date you begin delivering materials to or performing labor on the project. If the Notice of Commencement is filed late, you have 21 days from the date it was recorded to serve your preliminary notice.
There are multiple valid methods for serving a preliminary notice in Ohio. You may serve your Ohio preliminary notice via certified mail, registered mail, hand delivery (so long as there is a signed acknowledgment of receipt), or another valid method specified under Ohio Code Section 1311.19.
Best practices when serving an Ohio preliminary notice
1. Serve an Ohio Notice of Furnishing even if the owner does not file a Notice of Commencement
In Ohio, a Notice of Furnishing is required only if a property owner records a valid Notice of Commencement. This way, you will know where to get the relevant information such as the names and addresses of the owner and the general contractor.
But even without a Notice of Commencement, you are still advised to at least hand-deliver your preliminary notice to the general contractor. Serving an Ohio preliminary notice opens communication lines between you and the higher-tier party, which could be a great help if payment disputes come up later on.
2. Verify that all required information is provided in your Ohio preliminary notice
Preliminary notices may be invalidated if there is missing information. You have to make sure that all the required details in the Ohio Notice of Furnishing are provided. Aside from going over your preliminary notice form to ensure that all blanks are filled, also verify the correctness of the information that you wrote.
For instance, double-check the spelling and completeness of the names and addresses on the form. Official business names must always be written in full, including the appropriate suffix, e.g. Ltd. or Inc.
3. File an Ohio mechanics lien if payment disputes come up
An Ohio Notice of Furnishing is simply a preliminary notice—it is not a mechanics lien. If payment delays and disputes come up, you should seek a stronger legal remedy to recover your payment from your client.
Filing an Ohio mechanics lien is your best bet if you want to ensure that you get paid for all your hard work. There are rules and requirements that you must follow if you want to record a valid mechanics lien in Ohio, so also make sure that you are aware of those rules.