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January 20, 2019

Contract Document Distribution Law

In 2010, MBI led an effort to ensure that prospective bidders would have access to paper plans at no charge.  During the 2015 Legislative Session, this particular law was expanded to include “electronic and digital copies” of the project’s contract documents and bidding information. 

Iowa Code Section 26.3, subsection 2, as amended (new language is underlined) during the 2015 Legislative Session now prohibits the public owners from assessing fees or charges for paper, electronic or digital contract documents.  The new statute, effective July 1, 2015, now reads:

A governmental entity shall have an engineer licensed under chapter 542B, a landscape architect licensed under chapter 544B, or an architect registered under chapter 544A prepare plans and specifications, and calculate the estimated total cost of a proposed public improvement. A governmental entity shall ensure that a sufficient number of paper copies, and if available, electronic and digital copies of the project's contract documents, including all drawings, plans, specifications, and estimated total costs of the proposed public improvement are made available for distribution at no charge to prospective bidders, subcontractor bidders, suppliers, and contractor plan room services.  If a deposit is required as part of a paper contract documents distribution policy by the public owner, the deposit shall not exceed two hundred fifty dollars per set which shall be refunded upon return of the contract documents within fourteen days after award of the project.  If the contract documents are not returned in a timely manner and in a reusable condition, the deposit shall be forfeited. The governmental entity shall reimburse the landscape architect, architect, or professional engineer for the actual costs of preparation and distribution of plans and specifications.

As a reminder, there may be instances in which the governmental entity or its representative stipulates a postage, shipping and / or handling fee to be charged for all paper plan recipients.  If you run into such a requirement, it is important to remember that the law states that the governmental entity is responsible for all costs associated with preparation and distribution and that the architect and / or engineer should direct such charges back to the owner for reimbursement. 

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