When unpaid on a private construction project, an unpaid contractor or supplier can typically file a mechanics lien against the project itself. The lien attaches directly to the property, preventing transfers and sales, and protecting the unpaid contractor’s right to payment.
On jobs when the federal government owns the property itself, there is no legal right to lien it. Instead, unpaid contractors or suppliers must turn to 40 U.S.C. § 3131; commonly referred to as The Miller Act.
Under the Miller Act, before any contract of more than $100,000 is awarded on a federal building or work, the prime contractor must post a bond to protect those supplying labor and/or materials to the project. The bond is always there to protect qualifying subcontractors and suppliers from non-payment.
Here are five things you should know about the Miller Act:
- Prime Contractors: If you are the prime contractor, you cannot bring a claim under the Miller Act. Instead, you have a contract claim against the government, and must bring a lawsuit against it. The Miller Act deadlines are not applicable, and you should consult with an attorney to discuss your claim.
- First Tier Subcontractors and Material Suppliers: If you contracted with the prime contractor to provide labor and/or materials, you can sue the surety on the Miller Act Bond. Suit must be brought within 1 year from the last date you provided materials or services. A Miller Act Notice may be provided to the Owner and/or Surety.
- Second Tier Subcontractors and Material Suppliers to First Tier Subcontractors: If you contracted with a first tier subcontractor, within 90 days from the last furnishing of labor and/or materials, you must deliver a Miller Act Notice to the prime contractor. The law has specific requirements for what must be contained in the notice, and how it must be sent. You need not deliver it to the surety, but it may be a good idea. Suit on the bond must be brought within 1 year from the last date you provided materials and/or services.
- Third Tier Subcontractors and Suppliers to Suppliers: If you contracted with a second tier subcontractor, or if you are a supplier to a supplier, you do not have any rights under the Miller Act. Instead, you must simply seek payment from the party they contracted with.
- If you aren’t paid on a project, you have a right to see the bond and the contract. Send an affidavit to to the contracting agency confirming that you both supplied labor and/or materials to the project, and have not been paid.
How Zlien Can Help
- Unsure if your project qualifies as a Miller Act Project?
- Confused about how to actually deliver the notice?
- Not sure who is the contracting agency for your federal project?
Zlien is experienced in preparing and delivering Miller Act Notices on behalf of unpaid contractors and/or suppliers to qualifying federal projects. We can research your project, find the relevant parties, and help protect your right to files suit on the Miller Act.
Zlien charges $295.00 to research the project, prepare the Miller Act Notice, deliver it according to statute, prepare a proof of delivery, and maintain all the required documents for you in our industry-leading Lien Pilot.
If you’re interested in simply getting a copy of the bond and the contract, Zlien will prepare and send the required request to the contracting agency for just $95.00.