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 Watsonville, 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 disputes 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.
And even if disputes can't be resolved so easily, the courts still don't necessarily have to get engaged. For example, a construction contract may require mediation before any further action is taken. Mediation is a process by which a third party tries to guide the parties to the dispute to a settlement. The mediator cannot, however, render any binding decision. Another option is arbitration. This is where the parties go to a private arbitration service, which can render a binding judgment (usually enforceable through contract law, as the parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision). Arbitration has advantages over litigation, as the parties can have a say in choosing the arbitrator (allowing them to have their case arbitrated by an expert on construction disputes, for example).
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Watsonville, California is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Watsonville, California
Delays: If the contractor is culpable in a major delay in a construction project (a delay of weeks or months, for example), a lawsuit could result. If the contract specifically states that completion by a specific date is very important, or the builder has a good reason to know this, a court will often award the owner compensation for any economic harm caused by a delay.
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 typically 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 considerably less than the contract price.
Subcontractor Disputes: With very considerable 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 crucial 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 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 Watsonville, California Attorney Help?
Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a knowledgeable Watsonville, California real estate attorney can make it much easier to deal with such disputes, and help you avoid litigation, or prevail if litigation becomes necessary.