The inherent complexity of construction projects causes frequent disputes between contractors, subcontractors and property owners. Left unresolved, contractual disputes can lead to incomplete projects, legal action and destroyed relationships between contractors and their clients. As attorneys with years of experience in construction law, Smiley Law has helped clients resolve a wide variety of construction-related disputes. Of all the construction issues we deal with, the largest number arise from change orders.

Change Orders: An Ever-Changing World, with Ever-Changing Contracts

In the course of any given project, contractors will often discover physical conditions prompting additional work on a contract which fall under the category of work changes. When this happens, many owners claim that such changes, whether they are requested by the contractor or the owner, should be covered by the original bid price. Failure to agree or pay the extra price often results in contractors resorting to slow-downs and work stoppages, and can lead to liens or other legal action when owners refuse to pay for work changes that the contractor completed.

A well-written construction contract should specify the steps required before any work changes are authorized. Many contracts stipulate that a change in dollars or time must be described and submitted in writing a certain number of days in advance of the work or a certain number of days after the owner’s request. A contract typically requires the change order to be signed by all parties involved and reviewed and approved within so many days of submittal. Subcontractors are another source of potential disputes, as they may introduce changes in work plans and pricing that the general contractor must pass on to the owner.

Owners and contractors often maintain conflicting interpretations of certain points in their contract, and when a dispute does arise, mediation can be the best way to secure success for the project and their business relationships. If a case does go to court, the terms and language of the contract are weighed against the prevailing circumstances.

Good Construction Contracts and Solid Legal Support Are Essential

A good contract serves as a first-line defense against potential disputes, but no matter how well it is written, no construction contract can preempt every potential source of disagreement. Arm yourself with the legal protection that your business deserves. We handle a range of issues including change orders, back charges, liens, contract disputes, bid and retainage bond rights, performance and payment issues, liability and litigation – the experienced team at Smiley Law has the know-how to keep your projects running smoothly and prevent disputes before they arise.

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