The simple passage of time kills legal rights. Now, with the Coronavirus causing unprecedented havoc, contractors may inadvertently overlook time limits in the law which place their future collection rights at risk. Most importantly, the laws governing lien claims and bond claims are not written in a way in which time limits can be extended by unexpected events—even national disasters. So while contactors and materialmen may be willing to allow good customers more time to pay their bills, and tolerate delays from others, they should check their files and makes sure they are not placing those rights in jeopardy.
What follows is a listing of the short time limits in various lien and statutory bond laws which are critical to meet, as well as some statutory claim notice information. Note that this list is not exhaustive, because there are other time limits, too, and other laws, such as “Prompt Payment Acts” or New York Trust Fund claims. For all bid protest issues, “ASAP” is still the rule despite the Coronavirus (to be counted in days, not months).
There are also issues about how time is calculated under each law, and these can vary. In most cases, the following “rule of thumb” will be adequate: corrective, punchlist and warranty work which a contractor must perform will not extend time. For this purpose, it is also safest to exclude any separate work items which were not required under the original contract or a signed change order. Best to err on the side of caution; get it wrong and you cannot fix it later. You can also consider multiple, additional filings later.
In the following table, any reference to “2nd Tier”, means that only those who supply labor or material to a subcontractor (or in some instances, to a supplier) need give a mandatory notice or make a filing.
Two other points must be made. First, contracts sometimes include “contractual” time limits that reduce the time available to do things like sue, demand arbitration, or to file claims. These can, and will, be enforced if their dates are missed.
Second, in these difficult times, information and services which ordinarily, are readily available, can be difficult to obtain. So, when planning, allow extra time to make sure deadlines can be met.