Construction Dispute Law in California
When a property owner and a general contractor contract for a construction project to take place on some property in Berkeley, California, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a gamble 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 disagreements 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.
Even if disagreements can't be resolved amongst the parties to the contract, they don't need to take their dispute into the court system. For instance, construction contracts typically call for mediation or arbitration before any disputes are resolved by the courts. Mediation is a process by which a third party serves as a sort of intermediary in settlement negotiations between the parties to the contract. The mediator can help keep negotiations on track, and suggest possible solutions the parties might not have thought of. The mediator can't issue a binding decision, however. Arbitration is a procedure through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be quicker and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Berkeley, California is regarded a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Berkeley, California
Construction Delays: Delays in construction are prevalent sticking points between contractors and landowners. These delays can sometimes lead to litigation, especially if the construction contract makes it clear that time is an important factor, or if the contract mandates a certain completion date. In such situations, a court will often award the landowner compensation for any monetary losses he or she suffered as a result of the delay.
Refusal to Pay: Contractors can be on the other side of legal disagreements, as well. Sometimes, the landowners who hired them refuse to pay. This is typically because the landowner believes that the contractor didn't perform under the terms of the contract, or that the work was unsatisfactory. If this is the case, it may ultimately be up to a court to decide who is right. If the contractor did, in fact, do poor work, the landowner will be excused, at least in part, from his duty to pay. If, on the other hand, the work was satisfactory, the court will order the landowner to pay the contract price immediately, and may award further damages if the refusal to pay was done in bad faith, or if it caused foreseeable economic harm to the contractor.
Subcontractor Disputes: With very considerable construction projects, general contractors don't always have the resources to do all the work themselves, so they hire other contractors to do some of the work for them. Nonetheless, it is the general contractor who is ultimately responsible to the owner for the satisfactory completion of the project. So, it is very critical to the general contractor that subcontractors do a good job. If the subcontractor causes a delay or other issue, and the owner sues the general contractor as a result, the general contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever it lost in the lawsuit.
Mechanic's Liens: If the contractor sues a land owner and wins, he will likely obtain a monetary judgment. If the owner declines to pay, the contractor needs some way to recover. This is where the mechanic's lien comes into play. It permits a contractor to force the sale of the land or other real property that he just worked on, and use those proceeds to cover costs.
Can a Berkeley, California Attorney Help?
Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a reliable Berkeley, California real estate attorney can make it much easier to deal with such disputes, and help you avoid litigation, or prevail if litigation becomes necessary.