Understanding your right to secure payment as a subcontractor or material supplier in Washington state can be challenging. In this blog post, the Northwest Lien team explains the purpose of a Washington Notice of Intent, also known as a preliminary notice, and how it applies to your specific situation.
A Notice of Intent in Washington state is a document that commercial subcontractors and material suppliers must send to property owners within 60 days of first furnishing to protect their lien rights. It’s basically a letter that says, “Hey, I’m not contracted with you directly, so here I am and I’m expecting to get paid for my work when this is all over.” The Notice of Intent letter does not need to be recorded or notarized in Washington state, but it does need to be sent to the owner and general/prime contractor by certified mail or hand delivery. Additionally, the Washington notice deadline for subcontractors on residential jobs is just 10 days from the start date of the project.
In Washington, a Notice of Intent goes by several other names, including preliminary notice, pre-claim notice, or Notice of Right to Claim Lien. While there are technically differences between a preliminary notice and Notice of Intent in other states, Washington does not require the two to be separate documents with different purposes (like in Wyoming or North Dakota, for example); thus, it’s common for industry professionals in Washington to use all of the phrases interchangeably.
There is, however, a distinction between a Notice of Intent and a Notice to Owner. A Notice to Owner, also known as a Model Disclosure Statement, is a document that prime contractors must provide the property owner on smaller jobs before work commences. Prime contractors, or those who have a direct contractual relationship with the property owner, are exempt from the Notice of Intent requirement because their contract with the owner serves as enough notice of their work; for all residential projects, or commercial projects under $60,000, however, prime contractors must complete a Notice to Owner to maintain their lien rights.
With that in mind, Washington state law requires the following parties to file a Washington Notice of Intent / preliminary notice:
As we mentioned before, you do not need to file this notice if you are directly contracted with the property owner. Laborers are also exempt from the Notice of Intent requirement in Washington state under RCW 60.04.031 as long as they have provided labor and only labor.
Additionally, general contractors hired by a government entity do not need to file a notice against that entity. To do so would defeat the purpose of a pre-claim notice which is to make the general contractor and property owner aware of the parties working on the construction project. This helps to determine eligibility to initiate a payment bond in the case of future payment disputes.
A quick, shameless plug before we tell you all of our secrets: Northwest Lien Service can file your Notice of Intent for you with ensured accuracy, and often within just 48 hours. Especially for larger contractors who have made it a habit to send precautionary preliminary notices for every project (recommended), our membership options can save you a load of time and headaches while maintaining your lien rights.
That said, if you want to tackle it yourself … there are two necessary steps to send notice in Washington state:
We go over both steps in detail below.
While there is not a specific Notice of Intent form required in Washington, your Notice of Intent / preliminary notice must include the following information:
Be sure to look over this portion of the Notice of Intent to Lien letter to check for common mistakes such as misspellings, relying on job information provided by the customer, or not listing the full name of a business.
When you feel satisfied the above information is correct, the next step is to mail the Notice of Intent letter to the property owner and prime contractor. You must send the form by certified mail because this provides you with a return receipt indicating that the property owner and prime contractor received your preliminary notice — proof that you’ve done your due diligence!
For a more personal touch, you can also choose to deliver the notice in person. If you opt for hand delivery, you will need to obtain a proof of delivery signature from each recipient. Northwest Lien Service always recommends keeping copies of forms sent and proof of delivery receipts in case anyone questions your compliance with state law later. The simplest way to complete this legal requirement is by filling in the blank lines on an Intent to Lien letter template (or, again, by having our team do it for you).
Though the notice deadline on commercial projects is 60 days from first furnishing, we advise contractors on any job — commercial or residential — to complete this task within 10 days. We figure it’s easier to remember just one notice deadline for any kind of project, and the Notice of Intent is so important that we’d rather have our clients err on the safe side.
Northwest Lien Service, a construction and mechanic’s lien service serving Washington and Oregon, offers two membership options to assist you in collecting the payments you have earned. Both membership levels entitle you to a dedicated account manager with many years of lien expertise, free title searches, and several other benefits.
We understand you have construction projects to complete and don’t have the time to chase payments. Our services make the process of sending a notice and filing a lien much more efficient. Please contact Northwest Lien today at 425-620-3155 or complete this online contact form to receive a call back from us.