What Are Construction Disputes?
To put it simply, construction disputes consist of the differences in opinions or actions of two parties, usually a contractor and a subcontractor, or a contractor and an owner. Most construction projects end up with disputes, and this is the reason why many construction projects take longer to complete than expected.
Causes of Construction Disputes
The most common types of disputes arise from a failure to understand and/or comply with contractual obligations. Other disputes are caused by:
- Owner-directed changes: These are alterations proposed by the owner/employer that vary from inconsequential changes to fundamental changes, which almost certainly prolong the project.
- Contract errors: Errors in contract documents or construction drawings can be another reason for disputes.
- Site conditions: Bids/offers are usually based on existing site conditions, as that determines the price. But when construction begins the site condition can be different due to soil conditions or unknown subsurface structures.
- Construction quality: If the performance is not in accordance with the contract or the owner’s opinion, then a dispute may arise over the quality of the work.
- Delays: If the general contractor or any subcontractor doesn’t perform their duties by the deadlines, this might cause delays for the entire construction project, which will certainly lead to disputes.
Construction disputes can vary in severity. Sometimes it is just an argument between a client and contractor about small changes or it can be withholding payment from dissatisfied work. A common scenario is when the owner refuses to pay because they feel the work was incomplete and then the contractor files a lien against their property. If neither party submits, our attorney’s at RAK Law Firm can help negotiate, and if necessary, litigate for your justice.
How to Avoid Construction Disputes
There are multiple ways to improve avoidance of construction disputes. You can:
- Be clear and concise about the construction work; leave no room for interpretation. Many disputes arise from miscommunication, so it is important to make sure both parties have an understanding.
- Know who you are working with and figure out their reputation.
- Try to compromise small disputes so the disagreement doesn’t escalate.
- Draft construction contracts between parties for the work or money being exchanged. Having a written contract can help with ambiguities. These contracts could be drafted by anyone, but to have the best chance of avoiding future disputes, have a lawyer draft and/or review the contract to make sure there are no future problems.
- Proper documentation and record keeping during the claim process.
How to Resolve Construction Disputes
There are multiple legal avenues to resolve a construction dispute once it has begun, such as: preliminary negotiations, arbitration, mediation, and litigation.
- The first step when a dispute arises during the performance of construction should be to deal with the issue promptly. It may seem preferable to keep working on the undisputed aspects of the project, but resolving smaller issues as they arise will avoid long, drawn-out disputes late in the project.
- Preliminary negotiations are simple conversations between parties through an attorney with the goal of compromising, to avoid litigation.
- Arbitration and mediation are somewhat similar, the big difference being that arbitration consists or an arbitrator who decides on the outcome of the dispute, whereas mediation consists of a mediator who guides each party on coming to a conclusion they both deem fair.
- Arbitration is a consensual process, and the parties must agree to arbitrate their disputes in a written agreement for the dispute to be compelled to arbitration. Seifert v. U.S. Home Corp., 750 So. 2d 633 (Fla. 1999). Many corporate contracts contain provisions that require arbitration instead of litigation, in an effort to reduce the number of lawsuits.
- During a lawsuit, a judge may order the parties to mediation, even if neither party wants to. Fla. Stat. § 44.102. However, just because the judge demands the parties mediate, does not mean that the parties must come to an agreement, only that the parties tried to.
- Litigation refers to the entire process of formally suing a party. This process may take up to years and cases rarely go to trial.
When to Contact an Attorney
If the construction dispute has developed from mere bickering to ceasing communication between parties, then it would be a safe idea to consult with an attorney about options. Further, if the contractor has filed a lien against the property, or if the owner has withheld payment, then you surely want to seek legal advice.
In Florida, the attorneys of RAK Law Firm are reputable construction dispute lawyers who fight for their client’s rights, as well as offering a myriad of other legal services. If you have any questions or concerns arising from a construction dispute, please do not hesitate to contact us at (407)-437-0319.
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