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 San Luis Obispo, 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, 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, typically 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.
Litigation of a San Luis Obispo, California construction dispute is never something that anyone wants to do. Nonetheless, there are sometimes no other avenues.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in San Luis Obispo, 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.
Owner's refusal to pay: Contractors can also be the victims in construction disagreements. 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." Alternatively, 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 situations, 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: In large projects, contractors often can't handle every aspect of the construction, so they hire other (typically 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 permit 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 San Luis Obispo, California Attorney Help?
Construction disputes and disagreements can be very challenging to deal with alone. The assistance of a San Luis Obispo, California real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.