New construction of schools, and construction to maintain existing schools, appear to always be happening. Before working on a school construction project, its best to know the basics about it, such as whether it is a public or private school and who is the owner of either the land or the project.

The Importance of Determining Whether it is a Private or Public School

When working on a school construction project, the first thing you will want to do is verify whether it is a public (state/county/municipal) school, or a private school. This is important for two big reasons.

Mechanics Lien VS Claim on Bond

First off, when working on a private project and you go unpaid, you file a lien against the property where you performed work. However, when you are working on a public project, like a public school, the government is not going to let you take an interest in their property. Therefore, most public projects, including public school construction projects, have a payment bond. When unpaid on a public project, you file a claim on the bond, and not a lien on the property.

Therefore, if you are performing work on a public school construction project, but think it is a commercial project, you may file a lien on the property that is not correct and most likely invalid, as you should be filing a claim against the bond instead. Determining the project type beforehand can reduce the risk of filing the wrong document.

Preliminary Notice and Lien Deadlines

Secondly, it is important to determine which type of project it is because the lien and preliminary notice laws and deadlines can be different within a state for public projects vs private projects. On a private project in Louisiana for example, a subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, material supplier generally has to file a lien within 60 days of substantial completion of the entire project. However, if the general contractor or  files a notice of substantial completion, the lien deadline is only 30 days from substantial completion. On a public project in Louisiana however, the sworn statement of claim must be filed within 45 days of the project being completed.

How to Determine if a School Construction is a Private or Public Project

Finding out whether a school is private or public is relatively simple. For colleges and most high schools, they will have a website with information. Try the “About Us” or “Leadership” sections and it should have information about whether it is a publicly funded school or a private institution. A good rule of thumb is any religious school is generally going to be a private institution, and  that any college that is the state university, such as the University of Virginia or the University of Texas.

Who is Listed as the Owner on a Lien or Bond Claim

Private School Construction: Property Owner

Determining the property owner on a private school construction project is basically the same as determining the owner on any commercial project. Since you are making a claim against the property itself, you just need to find who the owner of the land is on record. To do this, you can check with the County Assessor’s Office to verify who owns the land. Most assessor’s sites have property search features or Interactive GIS Maps to help determine the ownership of a property. Private schools are frequently owned by the name of the school itself (for instance, Seattle University is owned by Seattle University), some religious group affiliated with the school, or a not-for-profit organization.

 

Public School Construction: Public Entity that Commissioned the Work

While finding the owner of a private school is relatively easy, when making a claim on the bond for a public school construction project, you will want to list the public entity that commissioned the construction work.

For a state college, it is generally a department like the Office of Facilities Planning and Management, or the Public Works Department. A construction project at the University of Washington (a public school), for instance, would have the work commissioned by the University of Washington, Capital Projects Office. Some of these websites also contain information you may need if you don’t have it, such as the general contractor on the project, or the contact person at the department who may have the bond information.

Public school construction on the high school or elementary school level is generally commissioned by a school district, county, or city.