What To Do If Your Preliminary Notice is Returned by USPS?

This article was updated on April 20, 2016.

State requirements everywhere setting forth the preliminary notice and construction notice requirements leave a lot to be desired in addressing practical issues that arise when complying with the same. This is especially true with respect to the actual delivery of a notice.

It is common when sending mail that mail will be lost, returned, undeliverable because of address problems, or, in the case of certified and returned mail, returned because the recipient refused delivery or never was around to sign for it (i.e. “unclaimed’).

What is a construction participant to do if preliminary notice is returned?

Understand Why The Mail Piece Was Not Delivered

The first thing you need to do is understand why the mail piece was returned. When mail pieces are returned to you, they are marked with a “code” or “endorsement.”  These endorsements are explained on the USPS website.

An infographic of these endorsements with our categorization notes is below.  At the end of this article, we also provide a textual breakdown of this information.

In the following infographic, we break down the various USPS returned mail endorsements.  We also associate them with one of three categories as they relate to returned preliminary notice or construction notice documents. The categories are: Defective Mailing, Recipient Action, and Suspect Mail Piece. Based on these classifications, the mechanics lien, bond claim, and preliminary notice laws of your state may require the sending party to take different actions. Keep it handy!

Categorizing returned mail endorsements when sending construction notices

Defective Mailing:  Try Resending When the Mailing Address Is the Problem

If the mail piece is returned to you because it was not properly addressed, the best practice is to correct the deficiency and send the notice again. Example endorsements from the USPS that likely fall into this category are marked on the above chart as “Defective Mailing.”

Think that this is a lot to keep up with, especially when sending hundreds or thousands of notices each month? Well, you’re right. It is.

Most states may not require that you get a construction notice in the recipient’s hands, but they will require that you address the mail piece properly and retain confirmation that you sent it properly. If the preliminary notice or construction notice is returned because of one of these “Defective Mailing” reasons, it is a best practice to conduct some research into the address and the recipient, and resend it.

Recipient Action: Keep Your Mailing Records, Post Your Notice, And Try Sending Regular US Mail When Recipient Action Causes The Return Of Your Notices

You are required to properly address a construction notice or preliminary notice, and to stick it in the mail according to state rules. You cannot control whether the recipient accepts the document, and for this reason, most states will not require any further action if you properly mailed a notice and it is returned to you.

Nevertheless, here are three best practices to follow when a construction or preliminary notice is returned to you because of a recipient’s action:

  1. Keep Evidence of Mailing. You will later need to prove that you sent this notice. Keep evidence of your attempt, including the evidence you have that connects the notice recipient to the address where delivery was attempted.
  2. Put a copy into Regular US Mail: Preliminary notices must usually be sent by certified mail, which can be refused or unclaimed. However, regular first class mail pieces cannot be refused or unclaimed. Take your returned notice, put it in a first class envelope, and resend it. Keep evidence of your first class mailing to prove you took this extra step, it may be the evidence that saves your lien claim.
  3. Post a copy of the notice at the jobsite.  This is easier for subcontractors than it is for material suppliers.  In 99.9% of cases, it is not a requirement, so don’t break your back trying to do this.

Suspect Mail Piece: Double Check Your Preliminary Notice’s Information When Mail is Returned For Suspect Reasons

The endorsements above labeled as “Suspect Mail Piece” are not commonly returned to folks who send preliminary notices. Therefore, if you receive this endorsement, double-check your research and your information about the notice recipient.

If your information is incorrect, treat it like a Defective Mailing. If your information is correct, treat it like a Recipient Action return.

zlien Tracks Returned and Unclaimed Preliminary Notices And Empowers You To Manage Them In Bulk

Manage Construction Notices Returned Mail AutomaticallyThink that this is a lot to keep up with, especially when sending hundreds or thousands of notices each month?  Well, you’re right.  It is.

Keeping track of green cards for returned mail is difficult enough (our platform solves that, too, by the way). Keeping track of returned mail is much more difficult, however, because you must analyze the document and take a remailing action as soon as possible. Every day of delay is precious.

zlien‘s software actually empowers your company to completely automate a response to returned certified mail. Our system tracks every preliminary notice mail piece that is returned and puts it into an easy-to-use queue. You are sent an email alerting you that the mail piece was returned.  At that point, you just “dismiss” the record if no action is needed, or you press “resend” to automatically resend the preliminary notice to an address of your choosing.  That’s it.  Very easy.

Download Preliminary Notices Best Practices Guide

Infographic of zlien’s Classification of USPS Endorsements for Returned Construction Notices

Here is a textual breakdown of the USPS Endorsements for returned mail. As above mentioned, we look at each endorsement and categorize it for the construction organization sending preliminary notices or other construction notices. Based on these three categories, the sender should take certain actions (all outlined in the article above) to preserve their mechanics lien, bond claim, and security rights.

Defective Mailings

Attempted – Not Known
Delivery attempted, addresses not known at place of address

Moved, Left No Address
Addressee moved and filed no change-of-address order

Insufficient Address
Mail without number, street, box number, route number, or geographical section of city/state omitted and correct address not known

Address not readable

No Such Number
Addressed to nonexistent number and correct number not known

No Such Street
Addressed to nonexistent street and correct street not known

No Such Office in State
Addressed to nonexistent post office

Not Deliverable As Addressed Unable to Forward
Mail undeliverable at address given; no change-of-address order on file; forwarding order expired.

Returned for Better Address
Mail of local origin incompletely addressed for distribution or delivery

Undeliverable as Addressed – Missing PMB or No Sign
Failure to comply with postal requirements.

Returned for Postage
Mail without postage or indication that postage fell off.

Recipient Action

Addressee refused to accept mail or pay postage charges on it

Addressee abandoned or failed to call for mail

Box Closed – No Order
Post office box closed for nonpayment of rent

No Mail Receptacle
Addressee failed to provide a receptacle for receipt of mail

Suspect Mail Piece

Outside Delivery Limits
Addressed to location outside delivery limits of post office of address.

Temporarily Away
Addressee temporarily away and period for holding mail expired

House, apartment, office, or building not occupied

Used only when known that addressee is deceased and mail is not properly deliverable to another person