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 Buellton, California, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a chance 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 usually 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 Buellton, California is regarded a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Buellton, California
Delays in Construction: Delays are often points of contention between contractors and landowners. Contracts sometimes have clauses which explicitly state that the project needs to be completed by a certain date, or penalties will be imposed on the contractor (reduced payments, for example). However, if the contract doesn't contain such built-in remedies, or one party refuses to abide by them, litigation may be necessary. If a contractor causes a delay that it could have prevented, it will usually be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.
Owner's refusal to pay: if the contractor finishes a project to specifications, and the owner of the property doesn't pay the contractor, the contractor will most likely file a lawsuit to recover the agreed-upon price. In such cases, the owner will usually argue that the contractor's work wasn't of acceptable quality. In these cases, the court must decide who first breached the contract. In these cases, it's the party who did not breach first who wins the lawsuit. If the court finds that the contractor breached the contract through sub-quality work product, the owner will not be liable for payment (though he may have to pay for materials and labor), and if the court finds that the construction was acceptable, the owner has to pay, because he is the party in breach.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors usually hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is usually work of a specialized nature, which the general contractor isn't equipped to handle (such as plumbing or electrical wiring). The general contractor is the one who is responsible for the satisfactory completion of the project. If a subcontractor makes a mistake, or causes a delay, the general contractor is ultimately liable to the person who hired them. Nonetheless, if they are sued for the mistakes of a subcontractor, and lose, they can then sue the subcontractor to recover their losses.
Mechanic's Lien: If the contractor wins in a case against the land owner, and the court orders the owner to pay the contractor for services rendered, the contractor needs a way to secure payment, if the owner refuses. In some cases, a mechanic's lien allows the contractor to force the sale of the land, and any improvements to it, in order to secure payment for the services it provided.
Can a Buellton, California Attorney Help?
If you are involved in a dispute over a construction project, you should try to avoid litigation, and settle the matter as amicably as possible. However, litigation is sometimes crucial, and a Buellton, California construction disputes attorney can be of great help.