YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE:

by Max Stadfeld

in Practical Precautions

DEADLINES YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS

The Maryland Mechanic’s Law, the Maryland Little Miller Act (for state and local government projects), and the Miller Act (for federal projects) provide valuable tools to help those working on construction projects get paid. However, in order for claimants to take advantage of their rights under these laws, there are certain statutory time deadlines with which they must comply.

In Maryland, Mechanic’s Liens are obtainable against most private projects. In order to obtain a Mechanic’s Lien, a claimant who does not have a contract with the “owner” (as that   term is defined by the statute) of the project in question must send written notice to the “owner” of his intention to claim lien within 120 days from the claimant’s last day of work on the project. The notice must contain all of the statutorily required information and it must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or be personally delivered to the “owner” of the property (which, under some circumstances, can mean a tenant). In addition, the claimant’s lawsuit to establish a Mechanic’s Lien must be filed within 180 days from that claimant’s last work on the job. Failure to comply with either one of these deadlines will result in the claimant not being entitled to a Mechanic’s Lien.

Public projects are not subject to a Mechanic’s Lien. Rather, many of those furnishing labor and material to state and local projects where the general contract is in excess of $100,000.00 are protected by the Maryland Little Miller Act. Under the Little Miller Act, persons having a contract with a subcontractor or with a sub-subcontractor of the general contractor who furnished the labor and material payment bond on the project must send written notice of their payment bond claim to that general contractor. The notice must contain all of the statutorily required information and must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested within 90 days of the claimant’s last work on the project. Furthermore, the payment bond claimant’s lawsuit on the payment bond must filed within one year after the owner/public body “finally accepts” the project.

Many, but not all, persons furnishing labor and material to federal projects where the general contract is in excess of $100,000.00 are protected by the Miller Act. Under the Miller Act, those furnishing labor and material to a subcontractor of the general contractor who posted the labor and material payment bond on the project must send written notice of their bond claim (containing all of the legally required information) to that contractor. The notice must be sent to the prime contractor by any means which provides proof of delivery, and the notice must be sent within 90 days of the claimant’s last day of work on the job. The claimant’s lawsuit on a Miller Act payment bond must be filed within one year from the claimant’s last day of work on the project.

A claimant’s failure to comply with any of the above-discussed deadlines, if legally required to do so, will result in their claim failing. Therefore, it is imperative for contractors to know the statutory deadlines for the Maryland Mechanic’s Law, the Little Miller Act and the Miller Act so they are never caught “snoozing” and lose valuable rights which can help them get paid for their work.

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