(a) Whenever, in any contract for the improvement of real property, a certain amount or percentage of the contract price is retained, that retained amount shall be deposited in a separate, interest-bearing, escrow account with a third party which must be established upon the withholding of any retainage.
(b) As of the time of the withholding of the retained funds, the funds shall become the sole and separate property of the prime contractor or remote contractor to whom they are owed, subject to the rights of the person withholding the retainage in the event the prime contractor or remote contractor otherwise entitled to the funds defaults on or does not complete its contract.
(c) In the event that the party withholding the retained funds fails to deposit the funds into an escrow account as provided herein, such party shall be responsible for paying the owner of the retained funds an additional three hundred dollar ($300) penalty per day for each and every day that such retained funds are not deposited into such escrow account.
(d) The party with the responsibility for depositing the retained amount in a separate, interest-bearing, escrow account with a third party shall have the affirmative duty to provide written notice that it has complied with the requirements of this section to any prime contractor upon withholding the amount of retained funds from each and every application for payment, including:
(1) Identification of the name of the financial institution with whom the escrow account has been established;
(2) Account number; and
(3) Amount of retained funds that are deposited in the escrow account with the third party.
(e) Upon satisfactory completion of the contract, to be evidenced by a written release by the owner or prime contractor owing the retainage, all funds accumulated in the escrow account together with all interest on the account shall be paid immediately to the prime contractor or remote contractor to whom the funds and interest are owed.
(f) In the event the owner or prime contractor, as applicable, fails or refuses to execute the release provided for in subsection (c), then the prime contractor or remote contractor, as applicable, may seek any remedy in a court of proper jurisdiction and the person holding the fund as escrow agent shall bear no liability for the nonpayment of the fund to the prime contractor or remote contractor; provided, however, that all claims, demands, disputes, controversies, and differences that may arise between the owner, prime contractor or prime contractors, and remote contractor or remote contractors regarding the funds may be, upon written agreement of all parties concerned, settled by arbitration conducted pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Arbitration Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, part 3, or the Federal Arbitration Act ( 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq. ), as may be applicable.
(g) In contracts to which the state or any department, board or agency of the state, including the University of Tennessee, is a party, interest shall be paid on the retained amounts at the same rate interest is paid on the funds of local governments participating in the local government investment pool established pursuant to § 9-4-704 , for the contract period.
(h) This section shall be applicable to the state, any department, board or agency of the state, including the University of Tennessee, and all counties and municipalities and all departments, boards or agencies of the counties and municipalities, including all school and education boards, and any other subdivision of the state.
(i) This section shall be applicable to all prime contracts and all subcontracts thereunder for the improvement of real property when the contract amount of such prime contract is five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) or greater, notwithstanding the amount of such subcontracts.
(j) Compliance with this section shall be mandatory, and may not be waived by contract.
(k) Failure to deposit the retained funds into an escrow account as provided herein, within seven (7) days' receipt of written notice regarding such failure, is a Class A misdemeanor.
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