What is a Certificate of Completion
for Construction Projects

By Diane Dennis

The statements and time frames stated in this article are based on California law but it's so extremely well laid out that contractors in other states will find it very helpful and informative. Plus here's a link to get a form for your state from one of my trusted partners.

The certificate of completion aka notice of completion is filed with the County to let it know that your project is … complete. ;o)

If only a portion of the project is complete, say you have two different direct contractors with each doing a completely different portion of the improvement, you are allowed to file a notice of completion for just the contractor/trade that has finished.

Contractors, You WANT The Owner To File A Notice Of Completion

I found a terrific article for contractors about why you *want* the Owner to file that notice of completion / certificate of completion. (whoops, the article is gone, I've contacted the author to see if I can post it)

To go a step further you may even want to include copies of notice of completion forms with your contract!

Owners - You WANT To Make Sure You File The Notice Of Completion

After, or at the time of, project completion the Owner will record the certificate of completion.

The Owner has fifteen days from the date of completion of the project to file the notice with the county recorder's office.

If the Owner files the document within that 15-day time frame then the length of time allowed for the Contractors/Suppliers to file a lien drops to as short as 30 days after completion.

After fifteen days if the notice hasn't been filed it's too late for the Owner to do so, it flat-out won't be accepted.

Not recording that notice extends the amount of time a Contractor has to file a lien.

For Subcontractors and Suppliers it goes up to 60 days from date of completion; for Direct/Prime Contractors it goes up to 90 days from date of completion.

The Information That's Required To Be Included In The Certificate Of Completion

Below is a list of some of the various bits of information most typically required on Notice of Completion/Certificate of Completion documents for construction (that will normally be filed with the county recorder's office):

  • The name and address of the owner or reputed owner

  • The name and address of the direct contractor

  • The name and address of the construction lender, if any

  • A description of the site sufficient for identification, including the street address of the site, if any. If a sufficient legal description of the site is given, the effectiveness of the notice is not affected by the fact that the street address is erroneous or is omitted.

  • The name, address, and relationship to the parties of the person giving the notice

  • The name of the direct contractor under that contract and a general statement of the work provided pursuant to the contract

  • If signed by the owner's successor in interest, the name and address of the successor's transferor

  • The nature of the interest or estate of the owner

  • The date of completion of the project

Take the notice to your local county recorder's office (actually the county where the project is located) to file/record it.

Please note that if your notice of completion doesn't comply with the requirements of your state you could face some type of penalty (such as the 60 days to 90 days rule above).

Serve A Copy Of The Notice After Filing It At The Recorder's Office

Next you'll probably need to notify certain parties that you've filed a certificate of completion.

The notification is 'served' to the parties in whatever manner your state requires.

This might consist of:

  • First Class Mail

  • Certified Mail w/ Return Receipt

  • Registered Mail w/ Return Receipt

  • Courier

  • Hand Deliver

… or whatever other methods there might be.

There'll usually be a deadline on how many days you're given in which to serve this notice to the parties.

The parties could be any of the following and/or other:

  • The Direct Contractor

  • Subcontractors that provided a copy of a proper preliminary notice to the Owner

  • Sub-subs that did the preliminary notice

  • Suppliers to all of the subcontractors (the suppliers must have notified the Owner with a preliminary notice same as the Subs and Sub-subs are required to do)

  • Basically any claimant that provided a proper preliminary notice to the Owner

What Happens Should You Miss Any Of The Deadlines

Well, in California if you don't provide copies to the parties until after the 10 days then the notice isn't valid - extending the Subcontractors' and Suppliers' amount of time to lien from 30 days to 60 days after completion and the Direct/Prime Contractor's time extends to 90 days after completion.

The good news (for Californians at least) - that's the only 'penalty'!

  • Not timely filing/recording a notice of completion (within 15 days of completion)

  • Not providing a copy of the notice to all parties within the time frame allowed by the law (within 10 days of recording the certificate of completion with the recorder's office)

  • Not doing a notice at all

By law the only thing affected, the only 'penalty you pay' is that the time frame for the guys to file mechanic's liens goes from 30 days to 60 days to 90 days from completion.

It's Your Property - Don't Take Risks

If you've been able to hold on to your property through all the economical downfalls and natural disasters it would be a shame to lose it by not protecting it from what would be a different type of disaster (a disaster caused literally by a piece of paper).

It can't be said enough… Check the laws for the state that your project is located in. The above information is a summary based mostly on California's laws. While your state may follow the same procedures you never know if there's something extra that you have to do. Do not rely on the above as the be-all and end-all for notice of completion/certificate of completion requirements.

Here's a link again to obtain a notice of completion for your project and there's also a 'notice of notice of completion' for some states.

Oh my gosh, can the states get any more redundant?

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