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 California, California, 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.
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 normally 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 process through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be faster and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in California, California is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in California, California
Delays in Construction: Delays are commonly 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 normally be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.
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.
Subcontractor Disputes: With very massive 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. However, 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 problem, 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 refuses to pay, the contractor needs some way to recover. This is where the mechanic's lien comes into play. It authorizes 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 California, California Attorney Help?
Construction disputes and disagreements can be very hard to deal with alone. The assistance of a California, California real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.