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 Clearlake, 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 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 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 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.
Litigation of construction disputes in Clearlake, California can be extremely time-consuming, stressful, and costly. Nevertheless, there are (relatively rare) occurrences where it is the only option.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Clearlake, California
Major Delays: If the contractor or a subcontractor is at fault in causing a considerable delay to a project (several months, for example), this may lead to a lawsuit. If the contract stated that time was of the essence for some reason (maybe the project was a new store that the owner hoped to open before the holiday shopping season, for example), a court can typically award the owner any damages that were caused by the delay.
Refusal to Pay: Contractors can be on the other side of legal disputes, 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 additional damages if the refusal to pay was done in bad faith, or if it caused foreseeable economic harm to the contractor.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors typically hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is typically 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. However, if they are sued for the mistakes of a subcontractor, and lose, they can then sue the subcontractor to recover their losses.
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 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 Clearlake, California Attorney Help?
Construction disputes and disagreements can be very challenging to deal with alone. The assistance of a Clearlake, California real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.