Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 566 which make major changes to Pennsylvania’s Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act. Owners and General Contractors that fail to take head of the changes could face significant financial consequences.
The Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act, known as CAPSA or simply the Payment Act, was passed into law in 1994. The intent was “to cure abuses within the building industry involving payments due from owners to contractors, contractors to subcontractors, and subcontractors to other subcontractors.” Zimmerman v. Harrisburg Fudd I, L.P., 984 A.2d 497, 500 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2009). In reality, abuses still occurred. While the Payment Act purportedly dictated a statutory right to payment within a certain amount of time and imposes stiff penalties for failure make payment, including 1% interest per month, 1% penalty per month, and reasonable attorneys fees, the language of the Payment Act left recalcitrant contractors with wiggle room. Particularly, the Payment Act allowed owners and higher tier subcontractors to withhold payment “deficiency items according to the terms of the construction contract” provided it notified the contractor “of the deficiency item within seven calendar days of the date that the invoice is received.” 73 P.S. Section 506. The problem was that the Payment Act did not expressly state where the notice must be in written, what it must say, and what happened if notice was not given.