COMMERCIAL CONSTRUCTION IN NORTH CAROLINA: LATE PAYMENTS TO SUBCONTRACTORS – IS IT LEGAL?
On Commercial Construction Projects, North Carolina law provides that a General Contractor cannot withhold payment to its Subcontractors just because the General Contractor has not been paid by the Owner of the project.
Specifically, N.C.G.S. 22C-2. Performance by Subcontractor states:"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."
As the statute says, even if the written Contract provides such a "pay when paid" clause, the provision is unenforceable by the General Contractor as a matter of North Carolina public policy.
Moreover, any payment due to a Subcontractor from a General Contractor, or from a Subcontractor to its subcontractor, must be paid withing seven (7) days of receipt of the subcontractor's invoice for work performed. N.C.G.S. 22C-3. Time of Payment to Subcontractors states:
"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."
Additionally, any late payments bear interest at the rate of 1% per month or 12% per year. N.C.G.S. 22C-5. Late Payments to Bear Interest states:
"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."
However, these rules do not require a General Contractor or Subcontractor to pay its subcontractors, as set forth above, if the subcontractor's work is deficient in any way. N.C.G.S. 22C-4. Conditions of Payment states:
"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."
Finally, be aware that these provisions apply to Commercial Construction Projects only; not to Residential Construction Projects. N.C.G.S. 22C-6. Applicability of this Chapter states:
"The provisions of this Chapter shall not be applicable to residential contractors ..., or to improvements to real property intended for residential purposes ...., or to improvements to real property intended for residential purposes ..."
Take Action:If you are a Subcontractor working on a Commercial Construction Project in North Carolina, and you have trouble getting payment for work you performed on the project, call a local construction law attorney for assistance.
Wesley Jones is a Construction and Business Lawyer in Wilmington, North Carolina serving all of Southeastern North Carolina including New Hanover County (including Wilmington, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and the areas of Ogden, Masonboro, Myrtle Grove, Landfall, and Mayfair), all of Pender County (including Burgaw, Surf City, Hampstead and Topsail Beach) and all of Brunswick County (including Bald Head Island, Bolivia, Calabash, Leland, Shallotte, Southport, Saint James, Ocean Isle, and Oak Island).