Construction Dispute Law in Alabama
When a property owner and a general contractor contract for a construction project to take place on some property in Montgomery, Alabama, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a risk that something can go wrong. In fact, at least a very minor setback may be more likely than not.
Most often, landowners and construction contractors are able to resolve minor to moderate disputes between themselves, and litigation is rarely necessary. Nobody likes litigation, so, to this end, most construction contracts have built-in remedies in case something goes wrong, like set price reductions if construction is delayed.
And even if disputes can't be resolved so easily, the courts still don't necessarily have to get immersed. For example, a construction contract may require mediation before any further action is taken. Mediation is a process by which a third party tries to guide the parties to the dispute to a settlement. The mediator cannot, however, render any binding decision. Another option is arbitration. This is where the parties go to a private arbitration service, which can render a binding judgment (typically enforceable through contract law, as the parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision). Arbitration has advantages over litigation, as the parties can have a say in choosing the arbitrator (allowing them to have their case arbitrated by an expert on construction disputes, for example).
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Montgomery, Alabama is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Montgomery, Alabama
Delays: If the contractor is culpable in a major delay in a construction project (a delay of weeks or months, for example), a lawsuit could result. If the contract specifically states that completion by a particular date is very important, or the builder has a good reason to know this, a court will often award the owner compensation for any economic harm caused by a delay.
Owner's refusal to pay: Contractors can also be the victims in construction disputes. Sometimes, the person who hired them will refuse to pay the agreed-upon fee, or withhold a portion of it. This, without more, certainly constitutes breach of contract. However, in such cases, the owner will rarely go to court and say "I just didn't feel like paying, so I didn't." Rather, they will claim that they had a very good reason to withhold all or part of the payment, such as unsatisfactory work by the contractor. In these cases, the court has to determine if the owner has a valid reason for not paying. If it concludes that he or she does not, it will order the owner to pay the agreed-upon price.
Subcontractors: Subcontractors are hired by general contractors to assist them in large construction projects, normally specialized tasks like installing plumbing. However, no matter how much of the work is performed by subcontractors, the general contractor (the one that the client actually hired to do the project) is liable to the landowner as if it were doing all the work itself. This basically means that, if a subcontractor messes up, the general contractor is the one who gets sued. But all is not lost in such a situation. If the general contractor has to compensate the owner because of the mistakes of a subcontractor, it can sue the subcontractor for whatever it had to pay to the landowner.
Mechanic's Lien: When a contractor wins a lawsuit against a client for nonpayment of the contract price, and the client still refuses to pay, there is a problem: a monetary judgment means next to nothing if it can't be enforced. To solve this problem, the mechanic's lien has been developed. Basically, if a landowner refuses to pay a contractor, even in the face of a court order, the court can force a sale of the property that the contractor worked on, along with all the improvements on it, and then give the proceeds to the contractor, to secure payment.
Can a Montgomery, Alabama Attorney Help?
Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a brilliant Montgomery, Alabama real estate attorney can make it much easier to deal with such disputes, and help you avoid litigation, or prevail if litigation becomes necessary.