Complying with the Notice of Commencement

Did I Comply with the Michigan Notice of Commencement?

We have previously discussed “substantial compliance” with regard to mechanic’s lien and bond claim statutes. In states with Notices of Commencement, complying with the preliminary notice requirements can (not always, but can) be a bit easier. Typically, the Notice of Commencement contains the vital information necessary for inclusion into the preliminary notice.

The Contents of a Typical Notice of Commencement

Generally, you’ll find the following information within the Notice of Commencement:

  • Property description
  • Name & address of property owner
  • Name & address of the prime contractor
  • Name & address for the designee or contract manager
  • Name & address for surety, lender or other interested parties

Now, please don’t take this to the bank – because, although there are statutory guidelines to Notices of Commencement, they are not all the same. Some folks don’t complete them, others may include more or less information and others may have incorrect information.

That said; let’s take a look at an unpublished case brought before a court of appeals in Michigan.

Serve the Notice upon Required Parties

In Rogers Excavating, Inc. v. Mana Properties, L.L.C., the appeals court was tasked with determining whether or not Rogers Excavating substantially complied with Michigan statute with regard to the Notice of Furnishing.

Rogers Excavating was hired by a construction manager for excavation work on a property owned by Mana Properties, LLC. Rogers Excavating’s contract was direct with the owner, Mana Properties, and the construction manager (McQuillan) signed the contract as a witness. Rogers Excavating served their notice of furnishing upon the owner (Mana Properties) and the construction manager (McQuillan).

Later, after Rogers Excavating had already begun work, Mana Properties, LLC filed a Notice of Commencement and listed a title company (Fidelity) as their designee, not the construction manager.

When Rogers Excavating remained unpaid, they filed a lien and suit to enforce their lien. Mana Properties, LLC argued that the lien was unenforceable because Rogers Excavating did not serve the notice upon the designee, as listed on the Notice of Commencement.

The appeals court determined that Rogers Excavating, Inc. did, in fact, substantially comply with the statutory guidelines for the notice of furnishing, and permitted enforcement of the lien. (Not only was it determined that Rogers Excavating substantially complied with statute, but Rogers Excavating’s contract was direct with the owner – Mana Properties – and no notice was required.)

What the Court Says

“MCL 570.1109(1) provides, in part, that “[a] contractor is not required to provide a notice of furnishing to preserve lien rights arising from his or her contract directly with an owner or lessee.” Given our ruling that a valid and enforceable contract existed between Rogers and Mana, a notice of furnishing did not have to be served by Rogers…

… MCL 570.1109(1) requires delivery of a notice of furnishing to a designee and a general contractor. And a designee is simply a “person named by an owner or lessee to receive, on behalf of the owner or lessee, all notices or other instruments required to be furnished under” the CLA. MCL 570.1104(2). Considering the evidence that Carroll Rogers delivered the notice of furnishing to McQuillan and the owner itself, Mana, there was substantial compliance with MCL 570.1109’s notice-of-furnishing requirement. The trial court’s ruling to the contrary was error.”

Shew!

Fortunately in this case, the notice of furnishing was not required based on the contractual relationship, and the court upheld that the notice served was substantially compliant with Michigan statute. But this should still serve as a reminder that it’s important to follow statute and comply as indicated – doing it right the first time around could save you significant time & money.

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