[LINK TO PDF OF DAILY JOURNAL ARTICLE] [EXCERPT] Allow me to first illustrate the issue with a familiar nightmare story, then let me describe the solution. The story is that of a longstanding family construction business. For decades, the business has been profitable. The owners have built considerable wealth and look forward to a happy and abundant retirement.
One of the most overlooked methods of asset protection for small businesses is found in the registration of trademarks and service marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Many business owners might presume that their legal rights are fully protected by the mere use of their business name for years. After all, if you’ve been using the name for decades without issue, no one can suddenly come along and force you to stop using the name, right? Well…not necessarily.
Many contractors contentedly accept the insurance policies presented to them by their insurance carriers. However, it is a much better practice to be an active participant in choosing the most appropriate coverage for your business and the specific jobs that you are performing. Use the following tips to be sure your company has the best and most comprehensive coverage.
Many contractors, subcontractors and suppliers are suffering at the hands of those who fail to pay for the work or materials they supply to construction projects. This is a brief outline of ten tips to keep in mind when dealing with delinquent construction accounts.
Many businesses are surprised to learn that there is a Bankruptcy Code provision, commonly referred to as the “Preferential Payment Rule,” which generally provides that where a debtor makes a payment to a creditor and the debtor files bankruptcy within 90 days thereafter, the creditor can often be forced by the Bankruptcy Court to pay all the sums paid by the debtor back into the bankruptcy estate for distribution to general creditors. When the creditor is an “insider” with the debtor the time period increases from 90 days to one year. This Rule is found in U.S. Bankruptcy Code section 547. The impact of this rule is often devastating to those who have received payment and disbursed it to their own creditors and no longer have the funds to pay to the bankruptcy court.
nder laws which took effect on January 1, 2011, claimants who seek to obtain payment for construction related debts through the California mechanic’s lien procedure must follow new rules and use new forms. Failure to do so will likely result in an unenforceable mechanics lien. There are a number of reasons that the law was changed. For example, until this change, there was no requirement that a mechanic’s lien claimant actually inform the property owner that the claimant has recorded a mechanic’s lien on the owner’s property. There was also no requirement that a mechanic’s lien claimant inform an owner of exactly what a mechanic’s lien is or that the owner may be sued within 90 days to foreclose on the mechanic’s lien and sell the owner’s property to pay the unpaid debt. Property owners had long complained that, until they received the mechanic’s lien foreclosure lawsuit, they were often entirely unaware that a mechanics lien had even been recorded on their property. The owner asserted that if he/she had known that a mechanic’s lien had been recorded, he/she could have acted to resolve the matter before a lawsuit became necessary. This was a particularly common complaint in the residential construction industry where homeowners are generally unaware of the entire concept of a mechanic’s lien.
For many years the prevalence of the “Type 1” indemnity clause has been the subject of fierce debate within the construction industry. Subcontractors have complained that they are saddled with indemnity obligations that require them to indemnify contractors from construction-related claims for which these subcontractors are truly not responsible. In defense, contractors have argued that they must be entitled to the freedom to set contractual terms to best protect themselves and they point out that subcontractors are certainly free to negotiate better terms or turn down work.
Important Changes to California Construction Forms Beginning on July 1, 2012: The Impact of 2010 Senate Bill 189
The most important changes to California construction law in decades will become effective on July 1, 2012. Signed into law in 2010, Senate Bill 189, reorganized and renumbered all those California Civil Code provisions dealing with such familiar construction claim remedies as the Mechanics Lien, Stop Notice and Bond Claim. While this effort greatly simplified the legal rules and made them easier to follow, there are a number of important substantive changes to these laws. These changes include new definitions, new rules and new procedures found in new Civil Code Sections 8000 to 9566. These changes also mean that new forms will be necessary. As a result of these changes, all those in the construction industry should begin using the new forms and procedures beginning on July 1, 2012. Failure to do so could result in loss of important legal rights. Some of the most important changes to the forms are outlined below. A website to access the new forms free of charge is also identified below.