The ‘Doctrine’ of “Belt & Suspenders”

All states require, by statute, specific guidelines be followed in order to protect your investment of labor and material on residential, commercial and public projects under mechanic’s lien laws.  In MOST states, preliminary notices, notice to owner, or other similar documents are required within specific time frames after your first day of furnishing labor or materials to a project and depending on your relationship with the owner of the property; i.e., whether you are working directly for the property owner these requirements may differ from state to state, as an example.

The ‘Doctrine’ of “Belt & Suspenders” is defined as using multiple methods to achieve a desired result.  YOUR desired result is to get timely paid and to use every method to obtain payment that is available to you at law–including exercising your rights under lien law protection.

How does this “doctrine” apply to me? 

  • Serve preliminary notices (even if you don’t think you need to) on every project, whether private or public.  

If I don’t need to, why would I? 

  • Transparency is a good reason—it lets the owner, general contractor or whomever is holding the pen that signs the checks KNOW you are performing an improvement on the property.  Getting the attention of a party’s Accounts Payable Department or a lender can’t be a bad idea.

A preliminary notice being served (whether required or not) creates neither harm nor foul.  Preliminary notices are just that—a notice to the owner and relevant parties.  It carries no legal weight UNTIL you’re NOT paid and at that moment when you decide that a lien is required in order to get paid, it carries the WHOLE weight in determining whether you have secured lien rights or have lost them.  NOT timely serving a preliminary notice on the parties can bar you from forever claiming a lien in those states where notice is required. 

What are the alternatives if lien rights are lost?  Collection agencies, attorney involvement, civil court litigation if those guidelines are met, and, just like that, you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

Recording a timely and valid lien doesn’t mean that you’ll avoid any future litigation and a possible suit of foreclosure may follow.  In that case, the groundwork has been laid for your attorney to proceed and the strong foundation of your right to do so has been set beginning with the initial preliminary notice. We’re not attorneys and can’t and won’t provide you with legal advice.  Only your attorney can meet you on the courtroom steps at the time of a foreclosure or other legal dispute.  Our job is to make sure that you have the right to be there through accurate and timely preliminary notice or mechanic’s lien document preparation relying on the information you provide us.  We research your information for accuracy to the extent possible. 

In short,  a preliminary notice is the belt and suspenders that could help you get the cash back into your pant pocket.

Entering a notice request in our system is easy – taking the steps to make sure it gets done right and on time to protect your rights is something we can assist with through our system or through in-house, virtual or one-on-one training.  We’re here to help you Cover Your Assets! 

~ Susan Clarke-Morales is the Director of Quality and Escalations for National Lien Services. She is also a certified Arizona Legal Document Preparer in good standing.

Contact Susie any time at: | 520-252-4073