Female hands typing on a laptop keyboard with isolated screen in a white room on a desk with a phone and a cup of coffee ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Construction company TKTMJ is suing two New Orleans churches for nearly $3 million in compensation for performing work that it claims was not part of the original construction plan.

The lawsuit alleges that St. Martin’s Manor Inc. and the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of New Orleans signed a contract with the plaintiff on March 15, 2012 specifying a certain amount of work be performed within a deadline, but then initiated structural changes during the course of the work that required an “overwhelming” amount of additional work that it later refused to pay for.

A Clear Contract is a Secure Contract

Drafting an unambiguous and comprehensive contract protects both you and your client from disputes and misunderstandings. In this lawsuit, the churches allegedly invoked a clause in the original contract to force the builders to continue work past the original specifications. A better-written contract that precludes such loopholes could have prevented this situation.

While the details vary from one contract to another, there are some universal basics to look for.These include:

●An explicit description of the work to be performed, including start and finish times for each stage of the project.

●The price, including a breakdown of all expenses and costs

●The terms and conditions of payment

In addition, the law itself requires that a construction contract adhere to a certain standard of clarity and explicitness, and in disputes over unclear sections the courts often rely on local custom. For instance, in disputes over pricing and payment, the outcome will depend on whether the parties agreed to a lump sum, a unit price or cost plus fee arrangement, and the explicit stipulation of the pricing and payment will help ensure a fair and reliable resolution.

Additional things to look for include an articulation of payment method, material terms and any transaction rules that may apply in your case. In cases where you haven’t agreed on final terms but the work needs to start, consider an interim agreement. Consider past problems you may have experience with the client and review the contract to ensure that the terms offer you adequate protection should these issues arise again. Finally, lay out explicit terms for payment of lawyer’s fees in the case of a dispute.

Prepare for the Unexpected—Consult a Construction Attorney

A construction project is a complex undertakings whose success depends on a variety of factors. No matter how much you trust your client, disputes can arise, and the strength of the contract you sign with them can make a fortune’s worth of difference to your livelihood. Before signing your next contract, consult the experienced attorneys at Smiley Law to ensure that your business is as secure as the structures you build.

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