Construction projects are always complicated and seldom go exactly as planned — but they don’t have to end up in litigation. A little proactive effort on your part can usually make disputes easier to handle (without getting the court involved).
Here are some of the top things you should be doing in every project:
- Recognize the value of the written word. We aren’t just talking about your initial contract (although that’s also important). You need to follow up on change orders, and oral communications with the owner, contractor, subcontractors and suppliers with a written acknowledgment of what was said and agreed.
- Handle issues as they arise. It is always quicker (and cheaper) to address problems while they’re small and just getting started. If you can’t resolve a problem right away, at least have a frank discussion with the other party about how you can do so in the future so that everyone has clear expectations.
- Pad the schedule for “unexpected” problems. Never lock yourself into a timetable that’s unrealistic and rushed. That’s not only a prescription for disappointment (because something is always going to come up and cause delays), it’s also a good way to end up with a rush job that won’t be satisfactory.
- Have a dispute resolution plan in place. If your contracts spell out a fair, alternative method for resolving problems outside the courtroom and offer contingency plans, you may find the other parties more than willing to avoid a lawsuit.
Finally, don’t get yourself into a situation where you feel pushed to sign a contract or make a verbal agreement without reviewing your options and fully understanding all of the terms. Relying on the assistance of an experienced construction attorney can help you spot problematic clauses in a contract or unreasonable terms — keeping you out of long-term trouble.