As of December 2016, the Pennsylvania Legislature has opted to join the State of Utah using online management for the protection afforded to Property Owners, Contractors, and Materials Suppliers under the latest PA Lien Law Statute. The two Critical Components of these changes are:
- Projects must be valued at $1,500,000. or more.
- A Notice of Commencement must be filed online.
So does this mean that projects less than $1,500,000 are not protected? And what happens if those responsible for filing the Notice of Commencement fail to do so?
Better check with your attorney to seek answers to these as well as more questions which are bound to surface. This is something brand new for Pennsylvania and there is always a possibility that a few kinks may need to be worked out.
It is possible for one to conclude that Contractors and Materials Suppliers are at the mercy of the Property Owner or General Contractor to initiate the process by recording a “Notice of Commencement”. Until this is filed, the required notices from the subcontractors and materials suppliers cannot be added to the Pennsylvania Construction Notice Registry.
While there is currently no requirement within the statute that requires a physical serving of any of these protective notices, it may be prudent to take the online process to the tried and tested physical delivery of a hard copy by certified mail. Subcontractors and Materials Suppliers are subject to the required “Notice of Furnishings” with a 45 day window of serving, as well as any “Notice of Non Payment”, be filed in the registry in order to protect their rights to file a mechanics lien. Serving hard copies of these combined with the online filing (when available) may prove to be the ultimate strategy for protecting your mechanics lien claim, should one become necessary.
The Common Sense Logic looks something like this. Should something happen which prevents the Subcontractor or Materials Supplier from accessing the online registry, or an error is discovered in the original notice of commencement, or . . . you know the liturgy of things that could go wrong. Then would it make sense to be able to offer hard copies of these notices, along with proof of service, to your attorney so that your claim can be advanced? Or would you just rely on the fact that you were unable to file online and therefore you want your lien rights acknowledged?
While this strategy is no guarantee and may not be honored, it is surely better than doing nothing and claiming that you were unable to file online because of some technicality. So as in most backup plans, the first choice is to complete the online filing requirements within the allowed 45 day limitation. In addition, serving a hard copy of the online notice can surely do you no harm and may prove to be the evidence needed.
Of course this is not legal advice, just common sense. Always check with your attorney before opting to select any alternate methods. But do ask yourself this question: “Why is this a bad idea?” especially if the hard copy references the date and time of your online filing.
Better safe than sorry.