How do I find out if the project I did and wasnt paid for, filed a notice of completion?

3 weeks ago

A local business hired a main contractor to do a remodel who then subbed it out to another guy who then had my boyfriend finish the job as his “employee”, as my bf doesn’t have his own licence yet. I know for a fact that the main contractor was paid in full for the job and supposedly still hasn’t paid the subcontractor that hired my boyfriend so therefore my boyfriend hasn’t been paid and the verbal agreement was for about seven Grand. We’re not sure how or who needs to go about doing what to get paid

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

First, it’s hard to know when a customer has been paid. Generally, subcontractors not really required to notify their laborers when they’ve received payment – though it’s possible for contract terms to create such a requirement. But, asking a customer whether they’ve been paid is likely a good start. And, asking them to put that in writing or even on a notarized statement could seemingly help to shake things up and see if they’re being honest about their payment status.

As for determining whether a Notice of Completion has been filed – that should be easier. For one, an owner who files a Notice of Completion will need to publish that notice once a week for 3 consecutive weeks in the newspaper. So, monitoring the paper could help. More importantly, though, the Notice of Completion must be filed with the county clerk’s office and with the recorder of the county where the property is located. So, since that’s public record, anyone could really search the record to see whether a Notice of Completion has been filed. It may be helpful to call the county clerk or recorder and/or go in person to take a look at the property record and see if a Notice of Completion was filed.

Getting paid for construction work in Montana

There are a number of recovery tools that can help to get paid on Montana construction projects. Let’s look at some of these options, saving the most drastic and serious recovery tools for the end.

Invoice reminders

For one, something as simple as an invoice reminder will often be enough to get paid. Not every payment issue needs to become a dispute – and simply sending a reminder that payment is due and owing might be enough to get paid.

Demand letters

Escalating things a bit with a payment demand letter could be helpful, too. Demand letters show the customer you’re serious about getting paid and willing to do what it takes to make sure that payment is obtained. Generally, such a letter will include specific legal threats that will be on the table if payment isn’t made.

Notice of Intent to Lien

Taking a further step and sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien is often effective, too. A Notice of Intent to Lien is a warning shot – it informs recipients that if payment isn’t made and made soon, then a mechanics lien will be filed in order to collect payment. Mechanics liens can have drastic impacts on property owners, so sending a copy of the notice to the owner, their contractor, the customer, and anyone else in charge of the project’s success can be particularly effective. More on that here: What Is a Notice of Intent to Lien and Should You Send One?

Filing a Montana mechanics lien claim

Mechanics liens are the most powerful tool in construction payment recovery – which is why merely threatening a lien claim can be so effective. Tying directly to the property title, they work in a number of ways to force payment (we counted 17). While they’re normally the nuclear option, they’re on the table for a reason – so unpaid Montana laborers have that option, if necessary.

If you want to learn more about proceeding with a Montana mechanics lien, this resource should be really valuable: Montana Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs.

Other recovery options

Of course, there are options outside of the mechanics lien process that could also be valuable in recovering payment. When unpaid for construction work performed, and if the payment terms of the verbal contract weren’t followed, a breach of contract action could potentially be on the table. Or, if the customer has been paid, an action under Montana’s prompt payment laws may be available, too. Ultimately, though, if legal actions will be undertaken, it’d be important to first consult with a local Montana construction lawyer. They’ll be able to review your situation as well as any documentation or communications available and advise on how best to move forward.

Note also that a claim in Montana small claims court could be available (for amounts of $7,000 and under) to streamline the process for pursuing a lien claim. Though, pursuing lien claims will typically be more fruitful than actions in small claims court.

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