North Carolina Prompt Payment Overview

North Carolina’s prompt payment statutes set forth specific timeframes when general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and others involved with a construction project must be paid.  This page provides an overview of these regulations, and addresses some frequently asked questions related to the North Carolina prompt payment laws.

North Carolina Prompt Payment for Private Projects FAQs

Prompt Payment Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Have To Send A Letter or File Anything To Qualify For Prompt Payment Penalties or Remedies in North Carolina?

If the provisions related to prompt payment apply in North Carolina, the only prerequisite is that labor and/or material was furnished in accordance with the provisions of the contract. Note, however, that there is no applicable statute governing prompt payment to GCs on private projects, only subs are specifically protected.

Can I Include Prompt Payment Fees In My North Carolina Mechanics Liens Claim or Bond Claim?

No. North Carolina doesn’t allow miscellaneous amounts to be included on the face of a mechanics lien.

If I am paid late according to prompt payment statutes, can I obtain interest or other penalty payments?

There is no specific prerequisite for interest to begin to accrue on North Carolina other than the payment being late.

Are there reasons for which payment may be withheld past the general deadline?

North Carolina allows payments to be withheld for the following reasons:

  1. Unsatisfactory progress
  2. Defective work that is not remedied
  3. Disputed work
  4. Third-party claims
  5. Failure to pay parties down-the-chain
  6. Damage to contractor or other subcontractors
  7. Reasonable evidence that the contract cannot be completed for the outstanding balance thereof
  8. Failure to make required payments to parties below
What is the best practice for making a demand to a non-paying party to get prompt payment fees?

Sending a notice of intent to lien and prompt payment demand is generally the best method for encouraging parties to make payment.

North Carolina Prompt Payment for Public Projects FAQs

Prompt Payment Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Have To Send A Letter or File Anything To Qualify For Prompt Payment Penalties or Remedies in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s prompt payment act applies pursuant to the schedule and requirements set forth by contract. However, as a practical matter, an invoice or request for payment should be delivered to the paying party.

Can I Include Prompt Payment Fees In My North Carolina Mechanics Liens Claim or Bond Claim?

No. North Carolina doesn’t allow miscellaneous amounts to be included on the face of a bond claim.

If I am paid late according to prompt payment statutes, can I obtain interest or other penalty payments?

In North Carolina, interest begins to accrue upon the payment becoming late at a rate of 1% per month of the unpaid balance.

Are there reasons for which payment may be withheld past the general deadline?

North Carolina allows payments to be withheld for the following reasons:

  1. Unsatisfactory progress;
  2. Defective work that is not remedied;
  3. Disputed work;
  4. Third-party claims;
  5. Failure to pay parties down-the-chain
  6. Damage to contractor or other subcontractors;
  7. Reasonable evidence that the contract cannot be completed for the outstanding balance thereof;
  8. Failure to make required payments to parties below;

North Carolina Prompt Payment Statutes

Getting informed about prompt payment laws is important. An examination of North Carolina’s prompt payment laws, the rules and regulations related to payment timing, is important to know your rights and responsibilities as a party on a construction project. North Carolina’s specific laws can be found in: N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 22C-1 to 22C-6,143-134 – 143-134.1, 143.135, and are reproduced below.

Prompt Payment Statute on Private Projects

§ 22 C-1: Definitions

Unless the context otherwise requires in this Chapter:

(1) “Contractor” means a person who contracts with an owner to improve real property.

(2)  “Improve” means to build, effect, alter, repair, or demolish any improvement upon, connected with, or on or beneath the surface of any real property, or to excavate, clear, grade, fill or landscape any real property, or to construct driveways and private roadways, or to furnish materials, including trees and shrubbery, for any of such purposes, or to perform any labor upon such improvements, and shall also mean and include any design or other professional or skilled services furnished by architects, engineers, land surveyors and landscape architects registered under Chapters 83A, 89C or 89A of the General Statutes.

(3)  “Improvement” means all or any part of any building, structure, erection, alteration, demolition, excavation, clearing, grading, filling, or landscaping, including trees and shrubbery, driveways, and private roadways, on real property.

(4)  An “owner” is a person who has an interest in the real property improved and for whom an improvement is made and who ordered the improvement to be made.  “Owner” includes successors in interest of the owner and agents of the owner acting within their authority.

(5)  “Real property” means the real estate that is improved, including lands, leaseholds, tenements and hereditaments, and improvements placed thereon.

(6) “Subcontractor” means any person who has contracted to furnish labor or materials to, or has performed labor for, a contractor or another subcontractor in connection with a contract to improve real property.

§ 22 C-2: Performance by Subcontractor

Performance by a subcontractor in accordance with the provisions of its contract shall entitle it to payment from the party with whom it contracts.  Payment by the owner to a contractor is not a condition precedent for payment to a subcontractor and payment by a contractor to a subcontractor is not a condition precedent for payment to any other subcontractor, and an agreement to the contrary is unenforceable.

§ 22 C-3: Time of Payment to Subcontractors After Contractor or Other Subcontractor has Been Paid.

When a subcontractor has performed in accordance with the provisions of his contract, the contractor shall pay to his subcontractor and each subcontractor shall pay to his subcontractor, within seven days of receipt by the contractor or subcontractor of each periodic or final payment, the full amount received for such subcontractor’s work and materials based on work completed or service provided under the subcontract.

§ 22 C-4: Conditions of Payment:

Nothing in this Chapter shall prevent the contractor, at the time of application and certification to the owner, from withholding such application and certification to the owner for payment to the subcontractor for:  unsatisfactory job progress; defective construction not remedied; disputed work; third party claims filed or reasonable evidence that claim will be filed; failure of subcontractor to make timely payments for labor, equipment, and materials; damage to contractor or another subcontractor; reasonable evidence that subcontract cannot be completed for the unpaid balance of the subcontract sum; or a reasonable amount for retainage not to exceed the initial percentage retained by the owner.

§ 22 C-5: Late Payments to Bear Interest

Should any periodic or final payment to a subcontractor be delayed by more than seven days after receipt of periodic or final payment by the contractor or subcontractor, the contractor or subcontractor shall pay his subcontractor interest, beginning on the eighth day, at the rate of one percent (1%) per month or a fraction thereof on such unpaid balance as may be due.

§ 22 C-6: Applicability of Chapter

The provisions of this Chapter shall not be applicable to residential contractors as defined in G.S. 87 10(1a), or to improvements to real property intended for residential purposes which are exempted from the application of Chapter 83A of the General Statutes pursuant to G.S. 83A-13(c)(1), or to improvements to real property intended for residential purposes which consist of 12 or fewer residential units.

Prompt Payment Statute on Public Projects

§ 143-134: Applicable to Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety; Exceptions; All Contracts Subject to Review by Attorney General and State Auditor

(a)        This Article applies to the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety except in the construction of roads, bridges and their approaches; provided however, that whenever the Director of the Budget determines that the repair or construction of a building by the Department of Transportation or by the Department of Public Safety can be done more economically through use of employees of the Department of Transportation and/or prison inmates than by letting the repair or building construction to contract, the provisions of this Article shall not apply to the repair or construction.

(b)        Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety shall: (i) submit all proposed contracts for supplies, materials, printing, equipment, and contractual services that exceed one million dollars ($1,000,000) to the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s designee for review as provided in G.S. 114-8.3; and (ii) include in all contracts to be awarded by the Department of Transportation or the Department of Public Safety a standard clause providing that the State Auditor and internal auditors of the Department of Transportation or the Department of Public Safety may audit the records of the contractor during and after the term of the contract to verify accounts and data affecting fees and performance. Neither the Department of Transportation nor the Department of Public Safety shall award a cost plus percentage of cost agreement or contract for any purpose.  

§ 143-134.1: Interest on Final Payments due to Prime Contractors; Payments to Subcontractors

(a)        On all public construction contracts which are let by a board or governing body of the State government or any political subdivision thereof, except contracts let by the Department of Transportation pursuant to G.S. 136-28.1, the balance due prime contractors shall be paid in full within 45 days after respective prime contracts of the project have been accepted by the owner, certified by the architect, engineer or designer to be completed in accordance with terms of the plans and specifications, or occupied by the owner and used for the purpose for which the project was constructed, whichever occurs first. However, when the architect or consulting engineer in charge of the project determines that delay in completion of the project in accordance with terms of the plans and specifications is the fault of the contractor, the project may be occupied and used for the purposes for which it was constructed without payment of any interest on amounts withheld past the 45 day limit.

No payment shall be delayed because of the failure of another prime contractor on the project to complete his contract. Should final payment to any prime contractor beyond the date the contracts have been certified to be completed by the designer or architect, accepted by the owner, or occupied by the owner and used for the purposes for which the project was constructed, be delayed by more than 45 days, the prime contractor shall be paid interest, beginning on the 46th day, at the rate of one percent (1%) per month or fraction thereof unless a lower rate is agreed upon on the unpaid balance as may be due. In addition to the above final payment provisions, periodic payments due a prime contractor during construction shall be paid in accordance with the provisions of this section and the payment provisions of the contract documents that do not conflict with this section, or the prime contractor shall be paid interest on any unpaid amount at the rate stipulated above for delayed final payments. The interest shall begin on the date the payment is due and continue until the date on which payment is made. The due date may be established by the terms of the contract. Funds for payment of the interest on state-owned projects shall be obtained from the current budget of the owning department, institution, or agency. Where a conditional acceptance of a contract exists, and where the owner is retaining a reasonable sum pending correction of the conditions, interest on the reasonable sum shall not apply.

(b)        Within seven days of receipt by the prime contractor of each periodic or final payment, the prime contractor shall pay the subcontractor based on work completed or service provided under the subcontract. If any periodic or final payment to the subcontractor is delayed by more than seven days after receipt of periodic or final payment by the prime contractor, the prime contractor shall pay the subcontractor interest, beginning on the eighth day, at the rate of one percent (1%) per month or fraction thereof on the unpaid balance as may be due.

(b1)      No retainage on periodic or final payments made by the owner or prime contractor shall be allowed on public construction contracts in which the total project costs are less than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000). Retainage on periodic or final payments on public construction contracts in which the total project costs are equal to or greater than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) is allowed as follows:

(1)        The owner shall not retain more than five percent (5%) of any periodic payment due a prime contractor.

(2)        When the project is fifty percent (50%) complete, the owner, with written consent of the surety, shall not retain any further retainage from periodic payments due the contractor if the contractor continues to perform satisfactorily and any nonconforming work identified in writing prior to that time by the architect, engineer, or owner has been corrected by the contractor and accepted by the architect, engineer, or owner. If the owner determines the contractor’s performance is unsatisfactory, the owner may reinstate retainage for each subsequent periodic payment application as authorized in this subsection up to the maximum amount of five percent (5%). The project shall be deemed fifty percent (50%) complete when the contractor’s gross project invoices, excluding the value of materials stored off-site, equal or exceed fifty percent (50%) of the value of the contract, except the value of materials stored on-site shall not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the contractor’s gross project invoices for the purpose of determining whether the project is fifty percent (50%) complete.

(3)        A subcontract on a contract governed by this section may include a provision for the retainage on periodic payments made by the prime contractor to the subcontractor. However, the percentage of the payment retained: (i) shall be paid to the subcontractor under the same terms and conditions as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection and (ii) subject to subsection (b3) of this section, shall not exceed the percentage of retainage on payments made by the owner to the prime contractor. Subject to subsection (b3) of this section, any percentage of retainage on payments made by the prime contractor to the subcontractor that exceeds the percentage of retainage on payments made by the owner to the prime contractor shall be subject to interest to be paid by the prime contractor to the subcontractor at the rate of one percent (1%) per month or fraction thereof.

(4)        Within 60 days after the submission of a pay request and one of the following occurs, as specified in the contract documents, the owner with written consent of the surety shall release to the contractor all retainage on payments held by the owner: (i) the owner receives a certificate of substantial completion from the architect, engineer, or designer in charge of the project; or (ii) the owner receives beneficial occupancy or use of the project. However, the owner may retain sufficient funds to secure completion of the project or corrections on any work. If the owner retains funds, the amount retained shall not exceed two and one-half times the estimated value of the work to be completed or corrected. Any reduction in the amount of the retainage on payments shall be with the consent of the contractor’s surety.

(5)        The existence of any third-party claims against the contractor or any additive change orders to the construction contract shall not be a basis for delaying the release of any retainage on payments.

(b2)      Full payment, less authorized deductions, shall also be made for those trades that have reached one hundred percent (100%) completion of their contract by or before the project is fifty percent (50%) complete if the contractor has performed satisfactorily. However, payment to the early finishing trades is contingent upon the owner’s receipt of an approval or certification from the architect of record or applicable engineer that the work performed by the subcontractor is acceptable and in accordance with the contract documents. At that time, the owner shall reduce the retainage for such trades to five-tenths percent (0.5%) of the contract. Payments under this subsection shall be made no later than 60 days following receipt of the subcontractor’s request or immediately upon receipt of the surety’s consent, whichever occurs later. Early finishing trades under this subsection shall include structural steel, piling, caisson, and demolition. The early finishing trades for which line-item release of retained funds is required shall not be construed to prevent an owner or an owner’s representative from identifying any other trades not listed in this subsection that are also allowed line-item release of retained funds. Should the owner or owner’s representative identify any other trades to be afforded line-item release of retainage, the trade shall be listed in the original bid documents. Each bid document shall list the inspections required by the owner before accepting the work, and any financial information required by the owner to release payment to the trades, except the failure of the bid documents to contain this information shall not obligate the owner to release the retainage if it has not received the required certification from the architect of record or applicable engineer.

(b3)      Notwithstanding subdivisions (2) and (3) of subsection (b1) of this section, and subsection (b2) of this section, following fifty percent (50%) completion of the project, the owner shall be authorized to withhold additional retainage from a subsequent periodic payment, not to exceed five percent (5%) as set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b1) of this section, in order to allow the owner to retain two and one-half percent (2.5%) total retainage through the completion of the project. In the event that the owner elects to withhold additional retainage on any periodic payment subsequent to release of retainage pursuant to subsection (b2) of this section, the general contractor may also withhold from the subcontractors remaining on the project sufficient retainage to offset the additional retainage held by the owner, notwithstanding the actual percentage of retainage withheld by the owner of the project as a whole.

(b4)      Neither the owner’s nor contractor’s release of retainage on payments as part of a payment in full on a line-item of work under subsection (b2) of this section shall affect any applicable warranties on work done by the contractor or subcontractor, and the warranties shall not begin to run any earlier than either the owner’s receipt of a certificate of substantial completion from the architect, engineer, or designer in charge of the project or the owner receives beneficial occupancy.

(b5)      The State or any political subdivision of the State may allow contractors to bid on bonded projects with and without retainage on payments.

(b6)      Nothing in subsections (b1), (b2), (b3), and (b4) of this section shall operate to prevent any agency or any political subdivision of the State from complying with the requirements of a federal contract or grant when the requirements of the federal contract or grant conflict with subsections (b1), (b2), (b3), or (b4) of this section. Each bid document must specify when federal preemption of this section shall apply.

(c)        Repealed by Session Laws 2007-365, s. 1, effective January 1, 2008.

(d)       Nothing in this section shall prevent the prime contractor at the time of application and certification to the owner from withholding application and certification to the owner for payment to the subcontractor for unsatisfactory job progress; defective construction not remedied; disputed work; third party claims filed or reasonable evidence that claim will be filed; failure of subcontractor to make timely payments for labor, equipment, and materials; damage to prime contractor or another subcontractor; reasonable evidence that subcontract cannot be completed for the unpaid balance of the subcontract sum; or a reasonable amount for retainage not to exceed the initial percentage retained by the owner.

(e)        Nothing in this section shall prevent the owner from withholding payment to the contractor in addition to the amounts authorized by this section for unsatisfactory job progress, defective construction not remedied, disputed work, or third-party claims filed against the owner or reasonable evidence that a third-party claim will be filed.

§ 143-135: Limitation of Application of Article

Except for the provisions of G.S. 143-129 requiring bids for the purchase of apparatus, supplies, materials or equipment, this Article shall not apply to construction or repair work undertaken by the State or by subdivisions of the State of North Carolina (i) when the work is performed by duly elected officers or agents using force account qualified labor on the permanent payroll of the agency concerned and (ii) when either the total cost of the project, including without limitation all direct and indirect costs of labor, services, materials, supplies and equipment, does not exceed one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars ($125,000) or the total cost of labor on the project does not exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000); provided that, for The University of North Carolina and its constituent institutions, force account qualified labor may be used (i) when the work is performed by duly elected officers or agents using force account qualified labor on the permanent payroll of the university and (ii) when either the total cost of the project, including, without limitation, all direct and indirect costs of labor, services, materials, supplies, and equipment, does not exceed two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) or the total cost of labor on the project does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000). This force account work shall be subject to the approval of the Director of the Budget in the case of State agencies, of the responsible commission, council, or board in the case of subdivisions of the State. Complete and accurate records of the entire cost of such work, including without limitation, all direct and indirect costs of labor, services, materials, supplies and equipment performed and furnished in the prosecution and completion thereof, shall be maintained by such agency, commission, council or board for the inspection by the general public. Construction or repair work undertaken pursuant to this section shall not be divided for the purposes of evading the provisions of this Article.