As you are aware, Georgia’s lien statutes require that third tier suppliers and subcontractors (those not in privity of contract with either the general contractor or the owner) file Notices to Owners IF the general contractor or the project owner filed a Notice of Commencement. Furthermore, according to the Georgia statutes, the Notice of Commencement must be filed within fifteen (15) of the commencement of the project. The Georgia Code also states, “The failure to file a Notice of Commencement shall render the provisions of this Code section inapplicable.”
So, what happens when the Notice of Commencement is not filed within fifteen days?
In a recent court of appeals decision (Southeast Culvert, Inc. v. Hardin Bros., LLC), the Georgia Court of Appeals gave general contractors some guidance on this question. In the case, the general contractor had filed its Notice of Commencement approximately 23 days after commencing work on the project; thus, the lien claimant argued that (i) because the GC filed its lien more than fifteen days after beginning work, (ii) the Notice of Commencement was not valid, and (iii) suppliers and subcontractors do not have an obligation to file a Notice to Owner is the Notice of Commencement is not valid.
The Georgia Court of Appeals did not agree with this reasoning; instead, it held that an eight-day delay in filing the Notice of Commencement did not relieve the lien claimant of its obligation to provide a Notice to Contractor. The court reasoned that neither party disputed that a Notice of Commencement had been filed–it was disputed whether the delay in filing the Notice of Commencement invalidated the supplier’s obligation to send an NTO. The court held that the code section which states “The failure to file a Notice of Commencement shall render the provisions of this Code section inapplicable…” was not applicable to this case. The Court reasoned that this code section applies only when there has been a total failure to file a Notice of Commencement at the time when a materialman must give a written Notice to Contractor to perfect its lien. There was no such total failure to file a Notice of Commencement here, merely an untimely filing.
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