When people think of attorneys, they usually think of lawyers arguing before a judge on behalf of their client. Many may also consider criminal law or corporate law to be the main focus areas of the practice. Few, if any, consider all the other arenas of the law. Construction law falls into one of those “other” arenas. Although it’s not as publicized, construction law is vital to maintaining justice and ethical practices in the world of construction.
WHAT ARE CONSTRUCTION REGISTRIES? There are over 700,000 construction companies in the United States. Without some type of structure or management, it would be difficult to keep track of all these entities, and of who is working on which projects. Construction registries assist in helping original contractors to stay informed and up-to-date about who is working on their respective projects. They also provide an exhaustive list of all the parties that have provided any goods, services, and/or equipment to a project, and who has legally maintained their lien rights by filing a preliminary notice. Construction registries are mutually beneficial. They not only help the state to keep track of all the construction companies and the projects that they work on, but they also help contractors to minimize liability and risk through joint check arrangements, and potentially through lien waivers. The process for such protection may vary from state to state. But in Utah, there are four documents that must be filed before contractors can receive any protection against liability. These four documents are  a Notice of Commencement,  a Preliminary Notice,  an Intent to Complete, and  a Notice of Completion. Read about some examples here.
Notice of Commencement
Unless you’ve been contracted by the government, all other construction jobs do not require a Notice of Commencement. However, if your contracted job has been commissioned by the government, you will need to understand how to properly file your notice. A Notice of Commencement must be filed within 15 days after you have started working on the job site. Should you neglect to file your notice on time, or if you have misrepresented or inaccurately prepared your notice, any worker on the job site will not be required to file a Preliminary Notice to make claim on the payment bond.
A Preliminary Notice ensures that contractors maintain their lien rights. In the state of Utah, any original contractor is required to file a Preliminary Notice within 20 days after they’ve started working on the job site. The inability to file this notice on time will waive any chance of maintaining their lien rights. In other words, the lien priority date for every worker on the construction site is set by the date the first Preliminary Notice is filed with the state. The lien priority date is not set on the date that the actual work begun.
Intent to Complete
An Intent to Complete is a document that states the expected completion date of the construction project, and only applies to non-bonded jobs that cost over $500,000. The original contractor may file an Intent to Complete at any point that is at least 45 days before the project is reasonably able to be completed. After the original contractor has filed an Intent to Complete, any worker that has filed a Preliminary Notice, or who is covered under their contractor’s Notice, must file a Remaining to Complete notice that states whether or not they have been paid, or if they owe money to other individuals/entities.
Notice of Completion
After the final inspection of the contracted project, after the certificate of occupancy has been signed and filed, or after all substantial work has been completed, the original contractor files a Notice of Completion. After the contractor files this Notice, all remaining and outstanding Preliminary Notices must be filed. Contractors and workers have 10 days after the Notice of Completion is filed to file their Preliminary Notices. This reduces the time allotted to file a lien on the project to 90 days, rather than 180 days.
HOW DO I FILE DOCUMENTS TO THE CONSTRUCTION REGISTRY?
In any state, but particularly in Utah, there are specific things you can do to ensure that your documents are successfully filed to the construction registry. First and foremost, it is always a good idea to hire an attorney to either file the documents for you, or to give you sound legal advice during the process of filing. The following are additional tips that will guide you in the filing process.
 File your Preliminary Notice Early
For construction, time is of the essence. If you as the original contractor are able to file a Preliminary Notice right away and without any delays, preferably at the beginning of a job, then the subcontractors, suppliers, and other participants of the job will be able to file their Preliminary Notices accurately and with all the information from your original filing. This will ensure that all the Notices are consistent across the board. It also helps you as the contractor to more clearly and easily locate all the preliminary notices that may be tied to the job.
 Post Your Preliminary Notice on the Job Site
It is important to post your Preliminary Notice (or at the very least the Building Permit from the State Construction Registry) on or around your job site. Doing so will allow anyone who is working on the project to file a Preliminary Notice accurately, based on the information found in the filings. Consistency is crucial and will safeguard your lien rights.
 Search by Parcel Number to Find all Filings Tied to a Private Job
As has been said, it is critical to maintain consistency among all the filed Notices. Searching by parcel number to find all filings tied to a private job will help your contracted work site and/or project to file all the necessary filings, to file them on time, and to include in them all the necessary information. Searching by parcel number will also give you as the original contractor the peace of mind that your project is being handled properly, legally, and ethically.
 Search by Entry Number to Find all Notices Tied to a Government Job
Should your project be commissioned and contracted by the government, you can use the entry number search to find all Notices that are tied to a government job. If you are not sure if your projected is commissioned by the government, or if you oversee multiple projects and need to keep track of all the contractors, this may be a helpful tip for you. As a general rule of thumb, if you input the phrase “Non-Government Jobs” in the entry number search, it is likely that you may not see all the filings tied to that property.
 Search by Entry Number to Find all Notice Filed Before August 2011
Before August of 2011, parcel numbers were not required to be included in any notice or filing. Searching by Parcel Numbers was not a common practice before 2011 and has only become a necessary step in the filing process in the last eight to nine years. Because of this, when using the entry number to search, it is important to only search for and find all notices filed before August 2011.
HOW CAN I SECURE MY SPOT IN THE CONSTRUCTION REGISTRY?
With these tips and guidelines in mind, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney before filing anything with the state or federal government. As experts in the niche area of the Utah State Construction Registry, Sumsion Business Law stands ready to help you file any necessary document or notice that the state of Utah requires for your construction company. Set up a consultation today!