A dispute with your contractors can threaten to stall a project indefinitely and end up being very costly. Understanding how disputes start — and what you can do to mitigate them once they begin — is only prudent.
How do construction disputes get started?
Even the best contracts can’t prevent every disagreement. Usually those disagreements stem from:
- A lack of understanding by one or both parties about the terms of the contract
- Murky or vague clauses in the contract that are open to different interpretations
- Poor planning, including unrealistic schedules and a failure to include gaps for ordinary delays
- Delays in dealing with issues as they arise (which usually makes them harder to handle later)
- Poor documentation of change orders or daily progress
Disputes can start on the owner’s or developer’s end, with the contractor or a subcontractor. Therefore, it’s important to have everyone on the same page before work gets started.
How do you deal with a dispute once it begins?
The direct approach is always the easiest: Talk to the other party and see if you can quickly work out an agreement that you can both live with — whether you collaborate on a plan or merely agree to a compromise. Remember to focus on the outcome you want — not the other party’s perceived failings.
If you approach the issue professionally, you may be able to find a workable solution. If you can reach an agreement, follow up any verbal agreement with written documentation as quickly as possible.
Ideally, legal action won’t be necessary. If it is, however, you need an experienced attorney to help you determine the next steps you should take.