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 Fort Bragg, 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.
Litigation of construction disputes in Fort Bragg, California can be extremely time-consuming, stressful, and costly. Nevertheless, there are (relatively rare) times where it is the only option.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Fort Bragg, 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.
Refusal to Pay: Disputes can also arise from a client's refusal or inability to hold up his end of the deal. Sometimes, once a project is complete, or nearly so, a landowner will express an unwillingness to pay the contractor for his services. There might be a variety of reasons for this - sudden loss of money, or dissatisfaction with the quality of the work are a few examples. It's rare that a client will refuse to pay a contractor simply because they don't feel like it (and if that is the reason, they'll normally come up with a better one to argue in court). In these cases, a court will sometimes have to decide if the client is obligated to pay the full price. If the work was, indeed, not up to the standards laid out in the contract, the contractor is not entitled to the full price, but is still entitled to the actual value of the work, even if it's substantially less than the contract price.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors normally hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is normally 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: Sometimes, when a contractor wins in a lawsuit against the landowner who hired him or her, and obtains a court order for payment, the contractor will still refuse to pay. Since a money judgment isn't worth much without a way to enforce it, the laws of many states have evolved to authorize what's known as a "mechanic's lien." As a last resort, if a landowner refuses to pay the contractor for work done on the property, the contractor can force a sale of the property, and keep the proceeds, up to the amount of money owed.
Can a Fort Bragg, 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 essential, and a Fort Bragg, California construction disputes attorney can be of great help.