Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act Guide for NSW Builders and Contractors

22 min read

Navigating the complexities of the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 1999 (SOPA) is crucial for builders and construction managers. This guide aims to demystify SOPA, providing a comprehensive understanding of its provisions, terminologies, applicability, and processes. Whether it’s managing payment claims, understanding the intricacies of adjudication, or knowing your rights and obligations under the Act, this guide serves as an essential resource for professionals in the construction industry. By grasping the nuances of SOPA, builders and construction managers can ensure smoother project execution and mitigate potential payment disputes effectively.

Table of Contents

Security of Payment Legislation: Background and Overview

The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 1999 (SOPA) was introduced in New South Wales (NSW) to tackle the cash flow problems that builders and subcontractors were facing. Before this Act, it was common for payments to be delayed until a project was completed, leading to disputes and unfair practices like backcharging for alleged defects or delays without a valid reason.

The Act made some significant changes to ensure that those in the construction industry could get paid regularly and on time. It allowed workers to claim payment every month for the work they had done and made sure these payments were made by a specific due date. If there was any disagreement over a payment, the Act provided a way to quickly notify the involved parties and resolve the dispute through an informal process called adjudication. This process was designed to be quick, affordable, and straightforward. The Act also gave workers the right to stop working if they weren’t being paid, without facing any legal consequences, and made it easier to get a court judgment for any unpaid work.

Over the years, the Act has been updated several times to better meet the needs of the construction industry. These updates have made sure that the Act continues to protect workers and ensure they are paid fairly and on time.

One of the most important things about the Act is that it applies no matter what the contract says. If a contract tries to exclude the Act, that part of the contract won’t be considered valid. The Act ensures that workers can ask for their payment regularly, provides a way to recover these payments, and offers a quick solution to resolve any payment disputes. It also bans “pay when paid” clauses, allows subcontractors to request that payment be withheld from a builder in certain situations, and requires that money meant to guarantee the completion of a project (retention money) be kept in a trust account for larger projects.

Understanding Key Terminologies under SOPA

The terminology used by SOPA can be difficult to understand. Here are the definitions of key terms used under the law:

Principal

This is the person or entity who hires someone to do construction work or provide related goods and services under a contract. The principal is not involved in doing any construction work or supplying goods and services themselves as part of the project outlined in the main contract.

Head Contractor

This refers to the person or company hired by the principal to do the construction work or supply goods and services as per the main contract. The head contractor may hire subcontractors to complete parts of the work or supply certain goods and services needed for the project. If the principal directly hires subcontractors without a head contractor, then there is no head contractor involved.

Subcontractor

A subcontractor is someone hired by the head contractor (or directly by the principal if there’s no head contractor) to perform specific parts of the construction work or supply certain goods and services under a separate contract.

Claimant and Respondent

Claimant is any person or company that sends out a payment claim, asking to be paid for work done or goods and services provided. Respondent the person or company that receives a payment claim and is expected to pay the claimant.

These terms are fundamental in understanding the relationships and roles within construction contracts, especially when it comes to payment and services.

Applicability of SOPA

SOPA laws are designed to ensure fairness and timeliness in the payment process within the construction industry. These laws apply broadly to various types of construction contracts, ensuring that parties involved in construction work receive payment for their services. Here’s a breakdown of what SOPA laws apply to:

  • Any Construction Contract: SOPA laws cover all construction contracts, regardless of the size or scope of the project. This means any agreement to carry out construction work or supply related goods and services falls under these laws.
  • Written or Oral Construction Contracts: These laws apply to contracts that are either written or verbally agreed upon. It doesn’t matter how the contract was formed; if there’s an agreement for construction work or the supply of related goods and services, SOPA laws are applicable.
  • Partly Written and Partly Oral Contracts: Even if a construction contract is a mix of written terms and verbal agreements, SOPA laws still cover it. The laws recognise the reality that not all agreements are neatly documented.
  • Contracts Governed by Laws Outside of NSW but Work Carried Out in NSW: If a construction contract states it’s governed by the law of another state or territory but the actual construction work is done in NSW, SOPA laws still apply. This ensures that work carried out in NSW is protected, regardless of the contract’s purported governing law.
  • Owner Occupier Construction Contracts (from 1 March 2021): Expanding the scope of SOPA laws, from 1 March 2021, owner occupier construction contracts are also covered. This addition ensures that individuals who contract work on their property are also protected under these laws.

By applying to a wide range of construction contracts, SOPA laws aim to safeguard the interests of parties involved in the construction industry, ensuring they have a clear path to secure payment for their work and services.

What is Not Covered under SOPA?

While SOPA laws cover a wide array of construction contracts to ensure timely payments within the construction industry, there are specific exceptions where these laws do not apply:

  • Work Performed Outside of NSW: SOPA laws are specific to construction work carried out within New South Wales (NSW). Therefore, any construction contract for work performed outside of NSW does not fall under the purview of these laws.
  • Goods and Services for Construction Work Outside of NSW: Similarly, if the goods and services are supplied in relation to construction work taking place outside of NSW, SOPA laws do not apply. The focus is on protecting payments related to construction activities within NSW. 
  • Employer/Employee Relationships: SOPA laws are designed to regulate payments between contracting parties in the construction sector, not to govern the traditional employer-employee relationship. Therefore, construction contracts that regulate an employer/employee relationship are not covered under these laws.
  • Contracts Relating to Financial Loans: If a construction contract primarily pertains to the provision of a financial loan, rather than the execution of construction work or the supply of related goods and services, it is not covered by SOPA laws. These laws are intended to address payments for construction activities, not financial lending.

Payment Claims under SOPA

A payment claim under SOPA is essentially a formal invoice or billing statement issued by an individual or entity who has provided construction work or related goods and services under a construction contract. This claim is not just any request for payment; it must meet specific criteria outlined in SOPA to be considered valid and legally enforceable.

Essentials of a Valid Payment Claim

A valid payment claim triggers a series of statutory obligations for the recipient, including the requirement to provide a payment schedule within a specific timeframe or to pay the claimed amount by a due date. Failure to comply with these obligations allows the claimant to seek further remedies under SOPA, such as adjudication or court action, to recover the claimed amount plus any applicable interest. 

For a payment claim to be recognised as valid under SOPA, it must:

  • Clearly Identify the Work or Services Provided: The claim must detail the construction work performed or the goods and services supplied. This doesn’t require exhaustive precision, but enough detail for the recipient to understand what the claim pertains to, based on the mutual understanding and context of the work done under the contract.
  • State the Amount Being Claimed: It should specify the sum of money the claimant is requesting. While the act doesn’t mandate an itemised breakdown, providing such details could be beneficial, especially if the claim proceeds to adjudication, as it offers clarity on what the claimed amount encompasses.
  • Declare that it is Made under SOPA: The claim must explicitly state it’s being made under the authority of SOPA to ensure the recipient is aware that the claimant intends to invoke the statutory rights and processes provided by the Act. This declaration doesn’t need to be overly technical but clear enough to notify the recipient of the claim’s legal basis.

When Can a Payment Claim Be Made?

The timing for making a payment claim under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 1999 (SOPA) is critical for its validity and the ability to enforce payment. SOPA specifies clear guidelines on when these claims can be issued, providing a framework that ensures continuous cash flow for those involved in construction work or the supply of related goods and services. Understanding these timeframes is crucial for both claimants and respondents to manage their obligations effectively. Key timeframes for issuing payment claims are as follows:

  • Contract-Specified Dates: If the construction contract specifies dates for submitting payment claims, those dates take precedence. These contractually agreed-upon dates dictate when a claimant can submit a payment claim, aligning the process with the specific terms of the contract.
  • End of the Month: In the absence of contract-specified dates, or in addition to them, a payment claim can be made on or from the last day of the month in which the construction work was first carried out or the goods and services were first provided. Subsequent claims can then be made on or from the last day of each following month, allowing for regular, monthly claims for work done or goods and services supplied.
  • Upon Contract Termination: SOPA also allows for a payment claim to be made on and from the date a construction contract is terminated. This provision ensures that parties can seek payment for work performed or goods and services provided up until the termination of the contract, safeguarding their rights to compensation even in the event of a premature end to the contractual relationship.
  • 12-Month Limitation: Unless the contract provides otherwise, SOPA imposes a 12-month limit for making a payment claim, counting from the date the work was carried out or the goods and services were provided. This limitation period encourages timely claims and helps prevent protracted disputes over older work.

The strategic timing of payment claims, as dictated by SOPA, ensures that claimants have regular opportunities to seek payment while providing clarity and predictability in the payment process. Adhering to these timelines is essential for leveraging the protections and mechanisms offered by SOPA, facilitating smoother financial management and dispute resolution within the construction industry.

Supporting Statement

A supporting statement is a crucial document associated with a payment claim under SOPA, especially when the claim is made by a head contractor. This document serves a significant purpose in promoting transparency and ensuring that subcontractors and suppliers are paid for their contributions to a construction project.

The supporting statement must accompany any payment claim issued by a head contractor to the principal (such as a property owner or developer). Its primary role is to assert that all subcontractors, including suppliers involved in the construction work covered by the payment claim, have been paid all amounts due and payable up to the date of the claim. This requirement is designed to protect the interests of subcontractors and suppliers, ensuring they receive timely payment for their services and materials. The key features of a supporting statement include:

  • Declaration of Payment to Subcontractors: The head contractor must declare within the Supporting Statement that all subcontractors have been paid what they are owed. This declaration is a formal acknowledgment that the head contractor has fulfilled their payment obligations to parties involved in the project.
  • Form and Approval: The Supporting Statement must adhere to a specific format approved by the Secretary (Commissioner for Fair Trading, Department of Finance, Services, and Innovation). This standardised format ensures consistency and clarity in how information is presented and understood. The most current form can typically be found on the NSW Government Fair Trading website.
  • Legal Implications: Providing a false or misleading Supporting Statement is a serious offense under SOPA. Head contractors must ensure the accuracy of their declarations, as intentional or negligent inaccuracies can lead to significant penalties, emphasising the legal responsibility to ensure truthful reporting.
  • Importance for Residential Builders: Residential builders working directly for homeowners should note that Supporting Statements may have slightly different requirements or formats compared to commercial projects. It’s vital to use the correct form tailored to the nature of the work, ensuring compliance with SOPA requirements.

Effective Service of Payment Claims

Effective service of a Payment Claim under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 1999 (SOPA) is a fundamental step that ensures the recipient is formally notified of the claim, triggering the statutory timelines for payment or dispute resolution. Proper service of the claim is not just a procedural formality; it’s a critical action that validates the claim process, ensuring the recipient is legally aware of their obligation to respond.

(1) Methods of Service

SOPA outlines several methods for effectively serving a Payment Claim, ensuring flexibility while maintaining the claim’s legal integrity. These methods include:

  • Personal Delivery: Handing the Payment Claim directly to the recipient, ensuring immediate and undeniable receipt.
  • Postal Service: Mailing the Payment Claim to the recipient’s ordinary place of business, with the assumption of service upon the standard postal delivery period.
  • Email: Sending the Payment Claim to an email address specified by the recipient for such documents, offering a swift and verifiable method of service.
  • Contract-Specified Methods: Following any additional or alternative service methods outlined within the construction contract itself, provided they comply with general legal standards for service.

(2) Importance of Correct Service

Correct service of a Payment Claim is paramount for several reasons:

  • Initiates Legal Timelines: Effective service sets in motion the statutory deadlines for the recipient to issue a payment schedule or make the payment, crucial for maintaining cash flow.
  • Ensures Recipient Awareness: It guarantees that the recipient is formally aware of the claim, reducing the likelihood of disputes over whether the claim was received.
  • Upholds Claim Validity: Proper service upholds the legal validity of the Payment Claim, ensuring that the claimant can pursue further action under SOPA if payment is not made.

Due Date

The concept of a “Due Date” under SOPA is crucial as it dictates when a payment claim must be settled, ensuring a predictable cash flow for parties involved in construction work or supplying related goods and services. SOPA establishes clear guidelines on when payments should be made, reinforcing the importance of timely financial transactions within the construction industry.

Initially, the due date for payment is often specified within the construction contract itself. Contracts can outline specific timelines for when payments must be made following the receipt of a valid Payment Claim.

In the absence of a contractually defined due date or if the contract specifies a later period than allowed by SOPA, the Act provides default due dates:

  • 15 business days for payments from a principal (e.g., a landowner or developer) to a head contractor.
  • 20 business days for payments from a head contractor to a subcontractor.
  • 10 business days for payments from homeowners to contractors in residential projects.

These default periods ensure that, even without specific contractual provisions, there is a clear expectation for the timely processing of payments.

Significance of Due Dates

  • Cash Flow Management: Establishing a due date for payments under SOPA allows businesses to manage their cash flow more effectively, planning for the receipt and expenditure of funds with greater certainty.
  • Dispute Minimisation: By having clear, legally backed timelines for payments, SOPA aims to reduce the frequency and severity of payment disputes within the construction industry.
  • Legal Enforcement: The due date is a critical element in the enforcement of payment obligations. Failure to meet the due date can trigger various legal remedies under SOPA, including the right to interest on late payments and the potential to seek adjudication or other legal action.

Interest

If a payment is not made by its due date, SOPA entitles the claimant to interest on the unpaid amount. The interest rate is either what’s prescribed under Section 101 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 or the rate specified in the construction contract, whichever is higher. This ensures that late payments are penalised, encouraging timely compliance with payment obligations.

Replying to Payment Claims

When responding to a Payment Claim in the construction industry, the respondent has specific obligations and options, particularly regarding issuing a payment schedule. Here’s a detailed explanation of the key points related to this process:

Timeframes for Responding with a Payment Schedule

  • Contract or 10 Business Days: The respondent must issue a payment schedule either within the timeframe specified by their construction contract or within 10 business days after receiving the Payment Claim, depending on which comes first. This ensures a swift response to claims, helping maintain project momentum and financial clarity.
  • Failure to Respond: If the respondent doesn’t provide a payment schedule within these timeframes, they are legally required to pay the full amount claimed. This provision underlines the importance of timely communication in financial transactions within the construction industry, penalising neglect or refusal to engage in the SOPA process.

Components of a Payment Schedule

  • Identification of the Payment Claim: The payment schedule must clearly reference the specific Payment Claim it addresses. This ensures there’s no confusion about which claim the payment schedule is responding to, facilitating clear and direct communication between the parties.
  • Scheduled Amount: It must state the amount the respondent intends to pay, known as the “scheduled amount.” If this amount is less than what was claimed, the reasons for the difference must be clearly articulated, providing transparency in the payment process.
  • Reasons for Reduced Payment: The schedule must detail why the scheduled amount is less than the claimed amount. This could be due to disputes over the quality or completion of work, errors in the claim, or other disagreements. Clearly stating these reasons helps prevent misunderstandings and provides a basis for resolving disputes.
  • Withholding Payment: If the reduced payment is because the respondent is withholding payment for any reason (such as dissatisfaction with the work), these reasons must be explicitly stated. This ensures the claimant understands the respondent’s position and can respond or rectify the issues as necessary.

Important Considerations

  • Interest on Unpaid Amounts: Interest accrues on any portion of a progress payment that remains unpaid past its due date. This acts as an incentive for timely payments and compensates the claimant for the delay.
  • Rights to Lien: The claimant holds the right to retain possession of any unfixed plant or materials they’ve supplied until the overdue progress payment is settled. This right serves as a form of security for suppliers and subcontractors, ensuring they have leverage to recover owed payments.


These detailed provisions are designed to ensure that financial transactions within the construction industry are conducted fairly and transparently. By requiring detailed payment schedules and providing consequences for non-compliance, SOPA aims to minimise disputes and foster a more reliable payment culture in the sector.

What if the Payment Claim isn’t Paid?

When a progress payment, as requested in a Payment Claim under SOPA, is not paid by the respondent, the claimant has several legal avenues to pursue. This process ensures that individuals and businesses involved in construction work or supplying related goods and services have mechanisms to enforce payment. 

The claimant can escalate the matter if the following conditions are met:

  • Lack of Payment Schedule: If the respondent fails to provide a payment schedule within the stipulated timeframe, which outlines what, if any, payment they intend to make.
  • Discrepancy in Payment Schedule: When the amount the respondent agrees to pay (the scheduled amount) is less than the amount the claimant has billed in the Payment Claim.
  • Non-Compliance with Payment Schedule: If the respondent does not make the payment they agreed to in the payment schedule by the due date.
  • Adjudication Process: This offers a faster, less formal way to resolve payment disputes than court proceedings. An independent adjudicator reviews the case and makes a decision, which is binding.
  • Court Proceedings: Taking the matter to court is generally a more formal and potentially longer process, but it may be necessary if adjudication is not suitable or if the dispute remains unresolved.
  • Payment Withholding Request: the claimant has the right to issue a payment withholding request. This request can be served on a principal contractor who has engaged the respondent for the project. The purpose is to withhold enough money from payments due to the respondent to cover the unpaid claim amount. This acts as a protective measure for claimants, ensuring they have a method to secure the owed amount while the dispute is being resolved. This is a powerful tool that can pressure the respondent to settle the Payment Claim to release funds withheld by the principal contractor.

The SOPA framework provides these mechanisms to protect the financial interests of parties involved in the construction industry, ensuring that work done, or goods and services supplied are paid for in a timely manner. By offering a structured approach to resolving payment disputes, SOPA aims to maintain fair business practices and cash flow stability within the industry.

Adjudication of Disputes under SOPA

Adjudication under SOPA serves as a quick and cost-effective alternative to litigation for resolving disputes over payment claims in the construction industry. Here’s a closer look at how adjudication works, its benefits, and its implications.

Advantages of Adjudication

  • Speed: The adjudication process is designed for swift resolution, typically concluding within 15 business days from the application to determination, though this period can be extended if both parties agree.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to court litigation, adjudication is relatively inexpensive, making it accessible for parties seeking resolution without incurring high legal fees.
  • No Requirement for Mutual Adjudicator Selection: Parties do not need to agree on an adjudicator; instead, one is appointed by an Authorised Nominating Authority, streamlining the process.
  • Prompt Payment Post-Determination: Payments adjudicated are usually due within 5 business days after the determination, ensuring timely cash flow.

Powers and Process

Adjudicators are granted statutory authority to make temporary determinations on amounts payable under a Payment Claim, compelling respondents to make progress payments, even in the absence of a Payment Schedule.

The SOPA adjudication system operates on a “pay now, argue later” basis, often described as providing “rough and ready justice” to maintain industry cash flow.

Adjudication determinations are final and non-appealable, with very limited grounds for quashing a decision—primarily limited to instances of “jurisdictional error,” where an adjudicator incorrectly assesses their authority to rule on an application.

The adjudication process under the Security of Payment Act is a structured procedure designed to resolve payment disputes within the construction industry efficiently.

Here’s a simplified overview of each step in the process:

  • Preparation of Adjudication Application: The process begins with the claimant preparing an application for adjudication, detailing the payment dispute and providing relevant evidence.
  • Submission to an Authorised Nominating Authority (ANA): The claimant submits their adjudication application to an ANA of their choice. The ANA is responsible for appointing an adjudicator to the case.
  • Service of Application: After submitting the application to the ANA, the claimant must also serve a copy of the adjudication application on the respondent, ensuring they are aware of the adjudication proceedings.
  • Respondent’s Adjudication Response: If the respondent has previously issued a valid payment schedule in response to the payment claim being adjudicated, they have the right to submit an adjudication response. This response must be prepared and served within either 5 days from receiving the adjudication application or 2 business days after being notified of the adjudicator’s acceptance of the application, whichever comes later.
  • Adjudicator’s Determination Timeline: The adjudicator has 10 business days from receiving the adjudication response to make a decision. If no response is provided, the determination must be made within 10 business days from when the response was due. If the respondent is not entitled to submit an adjudication response, the adjudicator has 10 business days from when both parties were notified of the adjudication acceptance to make a decision. The determination period can be extended if all parties agree.
  • Payment of Adjudicated Amount: The respondent is required to pay the adjudicated amount within 5 business days after the determination is served or by the contractually defined due date for payment, whichever is later.

Enforcing Adjudicator’s Determination

After an adjudication decision under the Security of Payment Act, the next steps involve serving the Adjudication Determination on the respondent, enforcing the determination if necessary, and understanding the specific court procedures for filing an Adjudication Certificate. Here’s a structured overview of this process:

  • Serving the Adjudication Determination: The Adjudication Determination, which specifies the amount payable by the respondent, is typically served by the Adjudicator or, more often, by the Authorised Nominating Authority (ANA) acting on behalf of the Adjudicator.
  • Payment Deadline: The respondent is usually required to pay the adjudicated amount within 5 business days following the service of the Adjudication Determination. In some cases, the Adjudicator may set a later payment date.
  • Enforcing the Adjudication Determination: If the respondent fails to make the payment by the due date, the claimant must request an Adjudication Certificate from the ANA. This certificate is crucial for the legal enforcement of the payment. The appropriate court for filing the Adjudication Certificate depends on the adjudicated amount:
    • For amounts less than $100,000, the certificate is filed with the Local Court.
    • For amounts between $100,000 and $750,000, filing is with the District Court.
    • For amounts exceeding $750,000, the Supreme Court is the correct venue.
  • Filing Procedure: Filing the Adjudication Certificate in court involves submitting an application accompanied by a sworn Affidavit of Debt. These documents must be meticulously prepared, as they form the basis for converting the adjudication determination into a court judgment.

Given the technical nature of these documents and the importance of accuracy, it is highly recommended to engage a solicitor. A solicitor’s expertise not only ensures the documents are correctly prepared but also provides valuable assistance if further action is needed to enforce the judgment against a non-compliant respondent.

This process transforms the Adjudication Determination into a court judgment, providing a clear mechanism for claimants to enforce their rights to payment. Engaging legal support is advisable to navigate this process effectively, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and enhancing the likelihood of successful enforcement.

Consequences of Non-Payment

If the respondent fails to pay the adjudicated amount by the due date, the claimant can suspend work after giving two days’ written notice. The claimant may also obtain an Adjudication Certificate from the ANA, which can be filed with the court to be enforced as a court judgment.

This adjudication process is designed to ensure that disputes are resolved quickly and effectively, providing a mechanism for parties to enforce payment rights without undergoing lengthy litigation. The “pay now, argue later” philosophy behind this process helps maintain cash flow within the construction industry, addressing one of the sector’s most pressing issues.

Grounds for Quashing a Decision

Jurisdictional errors are rare and increasingly so, due to adjudicators’ growing expertise and the accumulation of court judgments clarifying the law. Legal advice should be sought promptly if a jurisdictional error is suspected.

It’s crucial to understand that an adjudicator’s decision does not alter the final rights under the construction contract. If aggrieved by a determination, a party may still pursue legal action for breach of contract or other remedies independently of the adjudication outcome.

Trust Account and Retention Money

In construction contracts valued at $20 million or more, head contractors have specific legal obligations regarding the handling of retention money. This set of rules ensures subcontractors are fairly treated and that their financial interests are protected throughout the project.

Key Obligations of the Head Contractor

  • Trust for Retention Money: Head contractors are required to hold any retention money—which is a portion of the payment due to subcontractors but withheld for security purposes—in trust. This means the money is kept separate from other funds, specifically for the benefit of the subcontractors who earned it.
  • Establishment of a Trust Account: The retention money must be deposited into a trust account. This account should be with an authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) that meets the criteria set out under section 87 of the Property and Stock Agents Act 2002 (NSW). The use of such a trust account ensures that the retention money is properly safeguarded and managed.
  • Timely Payment into the Trust Account: The head contractor is obliged to deposit the retention money into the designated trust account within 5 business days of it being retained. This prompt transfer is crucial in maintaining the trust arrangement’s integrity and ensuring that the funds are available when needed.

Understanding Retention Money

Retention money is essentially a financial safeguard within the construction industry. It represents a specific portion of the payment owed to a subcontractor that the head contractor holds back to ensure the subcontractor fulfills their obligations under the contract. The practice of retaining part of the payment serves as a security measure, motivating subcontractors to complete their work to the required standards and within the agreed timeframe.

The percentage or specific amount of retention money is variable, depending on the terms of the construction contract. Common arrangements might include holding back 5% of the contract’s total value as retention money or deducting 10% from each of the subcontractor’s progress payments to accumulate the retention fund. The precise terms regarding how retention money is calculated, held, and eventually released are typically defined within the contract and are subject to negotiation between the head contractor and subcontractors.

By requiring head contractors to manage retention money with such rigor, the construction industry aims to balance the financial dynamics between head contractors and subcontractors, ensuring that both parties are protected and that the projects are completed to mutual satisfaction.

Statutory Debts under SOPA

Recovering unpaid amounts under the Security of Payment Act (SOPA) is facilitated through a process that enables claimants to pursue debts in court under certain conditions. This statutory debt recovery process is outlined clearly in SOPA, providing a robust mechanism for ensuring payment of due amounts.

Circumstances for Recovering Statutory Debts

A claimant becomes entitled to recover an unpaid amount as a statutory debt under the following circumstances:

  • Payment Claim Served: The claimant has served a Payment Claim on the respondent.
  • Lack of Payment Schedule: The respondent fails to provide a Payment Schedule within the required timeframe, which is either specified by the contract or within 10 business days after the Payment Claim is served, whichever is earlier.
  • Payment Overdue: The due date for the payment has passed without the respondent making the payment.
  • Court Filing: Claims to recover statutory debts are typically initiated by filing a Statement of Claim in the Local or District Courts, depending on the amount. For claims exceeding $750,000, proceedings usually start with a Summons in the Supreme Court.
  • Prohibition on Defenses and Cross-Claims: Respondents are not permitted to raise cross-claims or defenses related to contract matters, such as offsets for defects or delays.

Strategic Considerations

  • Legal Complexity: Despite the clear pathways outlined in SOPA, the process can become complex, particularly if the respondent attempts to defend or counterclaim. Specialist legal advice is crucial for navigating these challenges effectively.
  • Demand Letters: Often, a well-crafted legal demand letter, outlining the statutory debt and warning of potential court proceedings, can prompt payment or significantly improve the claimant’s negotiating position, possibly avoiding court action.

Suspending Work under SOPA

SOPA grants claimants the right to suspend work under specific conditions, providing a powerful tool for enforcing payment without incurring liability for related costs or damages. Work suspension is permitted when:

  • A Payment Schedule is issued but the scheduled payment is not made by the due date.
  • No Payment Schedule is issued, and the claimed amount is not paid by the due date.
    An adjudicated amount remains unpaid past either 5 business days from the determination or the adjudicator-specified due date.
  • A written notice of intention to suspend work must be given at least 2 business days in advance. Following payment, work must resume within 3 business days.

This framework under SOPA for recovering statutory debts and the right to suspend work highlights the Act’s commitment to maintaining cash flow within the construction industry and ensuring that claimants have effective means to enforce payment claims.

Understanding SOPA is fundamental for every builder and construction manager aiming for success in the industry. It not only empowers you to navigate payment claims and disputes confidently but also enhances your ability to manage projects efficiently, ensuring timely payments and fostering a healthier cash flow.

While SOPA provides a robust framework for securing payments, navigating its complexities can sometimes require expert guidance. If you find yourself in a challenging situation or need clarification on specific aspects of SOPA, our law firm is here to help. With our expertise in construction law, we can provide you with the support and advice you need to navigate the SOPA process smoothly and protect your financial interests. Let’s discuss! 

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Picture of Authored By<br>Raea Khan

Authored By
Raea Khan

Director Lawyer, PBL Law Group

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Cross-border estate planning, international wills and trusts, tax-efficient wealth transfer strategies and more…

Commercial & Business Law

Starting and scaling your business, banking and business financing, bankruptcy and insolvency and more…

Planning & Environment Law

Environment and planning regulation, land and environment court disputes, sub-divisions and more…

Wills & Estates

Creating, updating and contesting wills, estate planning and administration, probate applications and more…

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Jye Hall
Anita Bradley has been an absolute dream to deal with. Anita's conveyancing skills and knowledge knows absolutely no boundaries along with her effective communication skills which has made selling and buying a completely stress free exchange for us. We recommend PBL Law to everyone looking for outstanding service. We will definitely be returning clients.
Kushlan Aluwihare
PBL Law Group were fantastic. Anita from PBL worked with us closely during our property search and made the exchange and settlement process smooth and stress free. Highly recommended.
Gail Whitford
PBL handled my late mothers estate, they were very obliging and patient with any and all questions that we had, thank you to David , Sharon and the other staff that we dealt with, everyone was so easy to talk to and friendly .David came to the home where my Mother was living and helped her to get her will in order, Sharon helped us through the process of executing her wishes when the time came even doing a house call which was so much easier, thank you all so much
S M
I have experienced an excellent service from PBL (especially from Anita) during the sale of my recent property on Central Coast, and during the purchase of our current property in Sydney. Throughout many challengers, especially with the sale, Anita presented her very professional and knowledgeable conveyancer, positively solving all obstacles. "Above and Beyond" Award going to Anita!!! :-)
Amanda Reitzin
The five-star reviews are well-deserved. I needed a motion and a bylaw drawn up for urgent repairs of my strata unit and the AGM was in two weeks' time. My solicitor was friendly, efficient, knew what documents to ask for, and had all the paperwork prepared well within the timeframe. She also took the time to run through all the legalese and the different possible scenarios with me to make sure I understood. I am so glad to have found this firm and I will not hesitate to use their services again in future if the need arises.
Ricky Cooper
Anita is amazing! So attentive, approachable and communicates everything every step of the way. I have now bought and sold property with Anita and I cannot recommend her highly enough.
Ron Thomsen
Our Commercial Property conveyancing was handled very professionally. Anita’s experience and responsiveness was an asset in this transaction.
Trace M
I am so grateful for Anita Bradley from PBL Law Group helped me with this property settlement, she has went above beyond to ensure I understand everything because of our deafness. I will recommended Anita or their team. Thank you so much for all the hard work you have done for us.
Tricia Wheatstone
For almost 18 months I have been a client of Alex Ilkin. Alex is very knowledgeable and professional and has consistently provided me with thorough, honest and well set out advice, including steering my case through appeal proceedings. He always worked for my best interests with integrity and compassion. I recommend Alex and his team at PBL.