Over the next few posts I would like to go over payment bond claims for state and local public works projects. You may have heard these described as Little Miller Act claims, or what was known as the McGregor Act. In Texas the process is controlled under Chapter 2253 of the Texas Government Code. Although it may appear that the primary purpose behind Chapter 2253 is to make sure contractors get paid for public works projects, it is also intended to protect the bond companies from being overwhelmed with claims.
The deadlines are set forth in the code in such a way that it puts the burden on the contractor to know them and follow them, or they will lose out on their claim. On the flip side, if you are willing to do what is required by the law you have a good chance of getting the money that is owed to you.
First, we must review the timing of notifications. The Texas courts have held up these deadlines and requirements, so they are very important to follow.
Second tier contractors that have a written agreement, must give written notice (sent by certified or registered mail) to the prime contractor and the surety. The notice must be mailed on or before the 15th day of the third month after each month in which any of the claimed labor was performed or any of the claimed material was delivered. The notice must be accompanied by a sworn statement of account that states in substance: (1) the amount claimed is just and correct; and (2) all just and lawful offsets, payments, and credits known to the affiant have been allowed. The statement of account shall include the amount of any retainage applicable to the account that has not become due yet.
If there is no written agreement then these items must also be included in the notice: (1) the name of the party for whom the public work labor was performed or to whom the public work material was delivered; (2) the approximate date of performance or delivery; (3) a description of the public work labor or material for reasonable identification; and (4) the amount due. The payment bond beneficiary must generally itemize the claim and include with it copies of documents, invoices, or orders that reasonably identify: (1) the public work labor performed or public work material delivered for which the claim is made; (2) the job; and (3) the destination of delivery.
Lower tier contractors have to follow the above rules for the third month notice but have one additional notice they need to provide. This notice must be mailed to the prime contractor on or before the 15th day of the second month after each month in which the labor was performed or the material was delivered.
Retainage claims can be included in the above notices or by sending a separate retainage claim to the Prime contractor and surety on or before the 90th day after the final completion of the project. The claim requires a notice to contain a statement of: (1) the amount of the contract; (2) any amount paid; and (3) the outstanding balance.
A little leeway is given in the code for notice if the end of a notice period ends on a weekend, i.e. the 15th is on a Saturday, the notice is due on the next following non-holiday weekday.
Next time I’ll go over what can and can’t be included in a payment bond claim.