In an ideal world, a contractor performs a portion of the work on a project as provided for in a construction contract, the owner pays the contractor an installment payment for that portion of the work, and the parties continue similarly until the work is finished. However, many factors can upset the equation – changes

In February 2018, the Oregon Legislature attempted to push through House Bill 4154, which would have made a general contractor liable for unpaid wages, including benefit payments and contributions, of an employee of a subcontractor at any tier, after that employee files a wage claim and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries

During Seattle’s current construction boom, general contractors and subcontractors may be concentrating more on finalizing work on their projects than on worrying about the niceties of their construction contract documents. It is no less prudent now, however, for the parties to remain aware of their contractual rights and responsibilities—especially those tied to payment.  One payment term commonly contained in subcontract agreements is the contingent payment provision, which, depending on its terms, may pose an interesting challenge to construction lien rights.

Contingent payment provisions (e.g., “pay-if-paid” or “pay-when-paid” clauses) are frequently inserted in subcontract agreements. The hallmark of pay-if-paid clauses is usually “condition precedent” language, where the general contractor and subcontractor expressly agree that the general contractor’s receipt of payment from the owner is a condition precedent to payment by the general contractor to the subcontractor.  Under this clause, the subcontractor assumes the risk of non-payment by the owner.  On the other hand, pay-when-paid clauses have been interpreted to delay the subcontractor’s entitlement to payment until the owner pays, or for some reasonable time if the owner does not pay.

It seems that almost weekly, and certainly monthly, I receive a call or inquiry from colleagues and/or prospective clients as to whether a license is really required if the prospective “contractor” is not actually building anything but is merely facilitating a “deal” or is hiring otherwise qualified and licensed contractors and trades. Virtually every time

If you dislike negotiating, you are not alone. But successful negotiators understand and embrace the opportunities that a negotiation presents.  In my recent article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I discuss seven habits of successful negotiators that can help you successfully conclude your construction-related negotiations. Read the full article here

 “Hate Negotiating?

While surety bonds have always been required for most public projects, they are being used extensively in many large private construction projects by project owners to secure faithful performance (or payment via settlement) of the contract if the contractor defaults.  But does the contractor have the same standing and rights against the Surety as an

In recent years, the Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”), the Legislature and the California courts have expanded the application of the prevailing wage law to projects through the broad definition of a “public works,” beyond what most contractors, owners and even counsel would expect.  While most involved in construction anticipate that any work directly for, or direct payment of funds by, a public entity would trigger the prevailing wage laws, several decisions, determinations and recent legislation have significantly expanded the prevailing wage reach over the last several years.

Very recently, the DIR determined that both the shell construction of a Volkswagen auto dealership, and the separate tenant improvements in that shell, were public projects subject to prevailing wage law due to the land transfer by the City to the developer “because the Land is a transfer of an asset of value for less than fair market price”.

Similarly, in May 2012, the DIR determined that a contractor involved in the $95 million privately funded development and construction of a new agricultural facility was subject to prevailing wage law, but for the application of the de minimis doctrine, when the contractor accepted the City’s “in lieu of fees” for the City required infrastructure improvements.  The DIR determined that “[i]t does not matter that Company is performing infrastructure improvements itself or that Company could have elected to simply pay the fee and let the City perform the infrastructure improvement work. Company plans to accept the fee waiver. Therefore, it has received or will receive public funds within the meaning of subdivision (b)(4)”.  For additional applications and coverage determinations, see also the DIR’s most recent determination.  Previously in January 2012, the Legislature eliminated the applicability of the DIR’s 2010 determinations that solar photovoltaic power purchase agreements that include installation of leased equipment on public property were not public works through the passage of Labor Code section 1720.6.  This statute specifically defines a public project in part to be the “construction or maintenance of renewable energy generating capacity or energy efficiency improvements,” if certain elements are triggered.  See the DIR determinations from April 21, 2010, PW Case 2008-038 and 2009-005, for the prior analysis:  (See also Lab. Code, §§ 1720-1720.6.)

 Yet another California court decision has been issued requiring a contractor to return over $750,000 received for work he performed on a casino while he was unlicensed. In rejecting the contractor’s arguments against disgorgement, the court found that (a) California Business and Professions Code § 7031’s penalties applied to work performed for tribal corporations and

A reminder from the Idaho Supreme Court for parties to a construction contract:  the plain language of the parties’ contract governs the obligations between them in the absence of ambiguity.  In City of Meridian v. Petra, Inc., No. 39006, 2013 WL 1286014 (Idaho Apr. 1, 2013), the Idaho Supreme Court reviewed a construction dispute between the City of Meridian and its construction manager, Petra.  Not atypically, unfortunately, a project ballooned from $12.2 million in 2006 to over $21 million by October 2008 for a variety of reasons.  As the project progressed, Petra, pursuant to its contract with the City, notified the City of the proposed increased costs of construction and the City approved them, or often the City directed the changes itself.  During this same time, Petra notified the City of Petra’s right to an equitable adjustment to Petra’s fee based on the changing nature of the project. At that time, Petra agreed to wait until the final project value was determined before submitting the fee request. Thereafter, Petra managed the project for the City through occupancy.  Approximately six months prior to occupancy, Petra issued a change order requesting an equitable adjustment in the amount of 4.7% of the excess of the original base contract, which was the same percentage used for the original fee and a significant change order previously. The City denied the request.


  When mediation didn’t resolve the dispute, the City filed suit against Petra for declaratory relief and alleged breach of contract, among other claims.  Although the case itself addresses a number of related and interesting topics regarding evidence at trial, evidentiary issues relating to the claimed breach by Petra, and attorney fees, the foundational issue addressed by the court is the clarity of the contract and the allowance of the equitable adjustment.  On that score, the trial court found against the City on all but the lesser claims, and awarded Petra $595,896.17 in costs and $1,275,416.50 in attorney fees, in addition to its requested (as adjusted) fee of almost $325,000.