Old habits die hard.
Growing up in Memphis, I knew our local college as “Memphis State.” Then, in 1994, the name changed to “University of Memphis.” But, guess what everybody still calls it? Memphis State.
In 2007, Tennessee’s mechanic’s lien statutes were drastically overhauled. Lots of things changed, but one of the most noticeable was in terminology.
Before 2007, everybody made distinctions between “general contractors” (i.e. those contractors who have a direct contractual relationship with the owner of the real property) and “subcontractors” (those contractors who do not have a direct contract with the owner).
After 2007, those terms changed. Now, the terms are “prime contractor” and “remote contractor.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-101 (12) and (14) provide those definitions.
The difference in rights is significant.
A prime contractor has a lien that lasts a one year after the work is finished or materials are furnished and that lien doesn’t require any special demand or lien to be recorded in order to preserve those rights (warning: this is a drastic oversimplification).
A remote contractor has more hoops to jump through and limitations on its lien rights. Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-115 describes those “hoops,” which include a requirement to serve a notice of non-payment to all parties (See Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-145) and to record a Notice of Lien (See Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-112).
So, in the end, just because everybody talks about general contractors and their subs, don’t think that the change in the laws was purely cosmetic.