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Sub sub contracts labor (1099 helper)

TennesseeMechanics LienRecovery Options

Quick question if I may : Hello and good afternoon, I am a self employed, home repair and handyman, with 18 years of experience doing just about every trade under the roof. I have never in my years had a problem getting paid.. Its not because of the quality of job in question, but the error of those higher up the chain. My friend and colleague is an interior painting contractor, up until recently had only done re-paints and remodeling.. Never new construction.. I myself, while in Florida, started my painting background exclusively in high end new construction and complete remodeles.. So I know my way around, and the sequence of steps.. Long story short, my friend hired me as hourly help, to consult, train, and lead a crew on his first new construction with a builder/owner he had just met. I told him how to bid, he didn't listen, he went nuts on the builder's paint store account, including buying an $1100 rig, three draws later, he says no more money, and we are just barely past half way, mostly because the builder changes color schemes, trim carpenters scuff up our already done work, tile and cabinets etc, even after pleading we want to be last ones working, but builder insisted forward progress.. My friend promises to pay me to continue, lays off two helpers. All our tools are stolen, including 4 extention ladders.. I put in 71+ hours, what I actually wrote down, and when he says builder refused to read negotiate because of additional work due to no fault of ours, we had no choice but to walk.. Well, my friend still has the rig.. Never offered to pay me even a little bit.. Its been a month, and I really hit a rut needing to get paid for that two weeks, or $994...who or how to go about it? Is 1099 helper considered sub subcontract or an employee ? Is the builder responsible, he is also the property owner, being the sign for sale by builder, or my friend that is ignoring me responsible. Just shy of snatching the paint rig, but I am sure that will only create more problems. I have a decent reputation. Only one bad review in my career, so I want to do this quietly and correctly, but also I need to be paid.. I can't let it go.. I don't have the ability, while he rolls out of town every week, and I know, he has shared, the kind of money my help has created.. By paying me $14 an hour and billing me at $30.. Then I ask for his help on a small job, and he wants $100 for two hours to load some old furniture for a dumb run.. He has since stopped responding to my calls or messages.. Thanks for any guidance you can give me, Baffled in Chattanooga

1 reply

May 2, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about your recent stroke of bad luck. It's tough to see someone suffer through nonpayment at no fault of their own - but it happens fairly often in this industry. To the question at hand - I'll first note that taking property to fulfill a debt is generally a bad idea and can compound problems with potential criminal penalties. Other options for recovery will likely be more appropriate. First, sending demand letters to both a nonpaying party and the property owner can be effective - especially if sent through an attorney. What might be less costly (and potentially more effective) is a Notice of Intent to Lien. Such a notice acts a lot like a demand letter - it's essentially a warning shot that notifies the property owner (and any other party in receipt) that a mechanics lien will be filed if payment is not forthcoming. If demand letters or Notices of Intent are not successful - a mechanics lien might be an option. Tennessee provides mechanics lien rights pretty broadly- except for 1-4 unit residential dwellings that are owner-occupied. On projects that do not fit into that criteria - contractors, subcontractors, and laborers of any tier will have the right to file a lien, among others. On projects for 1-4 unit residential dwellings that are occupied by the owner, only parties hired by the owner will be able to file a mechanics lien - and in order to have lien rights, the contract must have contained certain language. For the projects that do not fit into the 1-4 unit residential owner-occupied category, preliminary notice will likely be required prior to filing a mechanics lien - such notice must be sent to the owner within 90 days of the last day of each month where work was performed and unpaid. That notice will also provide the owner with knowledge that payments have not been made and that, if it comes down to it, a lien might be filed. For more on these notice requirements, take a look at our FAQs or at this article: Tennessee Mechanics Lien Law: 5 Things to Know. Anyway - because a mechanics lien is so effective, the mere threat of filing one can often spur payment. So it may be wise to try sending a Notice of Intent prior to filing a mechanics lien. Finally, options such as litigation and small claims court may also be on the table. While litigation can be risky and expensive, small claims court provides an opportunity to utilize the court system at a lower cost - but small claims court can be a very risky endeavor. Ultimately, these are just some of the options available to recover payment - it will be up to a claimant to determine which route, if any, is the most appropriate to proceed.
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