Can I just file the claim with the bonding company? Or do I need to file a lawsuit or something with Washington L&I? We performed work on a private residence for a general contractor who has not paid.
May 7, 2018
Filing a claim against the contractor's bond or making a complaint to Washington's Department of Labor & Industries are both potential options when work has gone unpaid. A claim against the contractor's bond may be made without involving Washington L&I. However, in order to obtain the contractor's bonding information, a claimant will likely need to utilize Washington L&I - claimants can search their contractors and file complaints on Washington L&I's website here. From there, a claimant may want to contact the surety and notify them that a claim will be filed. Unfortunately, though, to make a claim on the contractor's bond, suit must be filed and both the surety and the contractor should be named. These claims and complaints can be effective, but initiating suit is costly - especially considering the risk involved, and that other recovery options are much less expensive. Sending a Notice of Intent to Lien is a good way to inform the contractor and the owner that a claimant refuses to go unpaid. It provides a warning - if payment isn't made, and made fast - a mechanics lien will soon be filed. Alternatively, or potentially in addition to a Notice of Intent, a demand for payment could be effective to inform the contractor and owner that legal actions will be taken if necessary. If such a demand is sent via an attorney, it tends to carry a little more weight. Finally, if other options have not been fruitful, filing a mechanics lien for unpaid work will secure the debt by taking an interest in the property title. Filing a lien is not an ideal recovery option, but when payments aren't forthcoming, there's no better tool for payment in the construction industry.