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 Mill Valley, 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, the owners of land and contractors can end disagreements before they get too serious, thus eliminating the need for litigation. Most contracts governing construction projects have built-in remedies for the most common problems, normally requiring the party that causes a delay or other problem to pay the other party a set fee.
Even if the parties can't easily resolve their disputes, and someone else needs to intervene, that somebody doesn't always need to be a judge or jury. Many construction disagreements call for mediation, during which a neutral third party helps the parties to the dispute negotiate a settlement. They might also go through arbitration, during which a third party renders a binding decision.
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Mill Valley, California is regarded a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Mill Valley, 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: Disagreements 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 occasionally 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.
Subcontractor Disputes: In large projects, contractors often can't handle every aspect of the construction, so they hire other (normally smaller) contractors to do some specialized work for them, such as plumbing, electrical installations, and the like. The general contractor, nonetheless, is responsible to the owner for anything that goes wrong. If a subcontractor messes up, and the owner sues the contractor, the contractor will have to pay. Nonetheless, the contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever he had to pay.
Mechanic's Liens: Sometimes, when a contractor wins in a case 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 Mill Valley, California Attorney Help?
If you have a construction dispute, you should first try to resolve it amicably with the other party. If this fails, it is almost always imperative to hire a Mill Valley, California construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.