Construction Dispute Law in Iowa
When a property owner and a general contractor contract for a construction project to take place on some property in Norwalk, Iowa, whether it's a house, some landscaping, or a remodeling project, there is always a chance that something can go wrong. In fact, at least a very minor setback may be more likely than not.
In the overwhelming majority of instances, however, these problems are resolvable, and do not lead to major disputes. Being rational, business-minded adults, landowners and construction contractors are usually able to resolve disputes amongst themselves. After all, both stand to gain if the project is completed, and the contractor is paid.
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 disputes 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 construction disputes in Norwalk, Iowa can be extremely time-consuming, stressful, and costly. Nevertheless, there are (relatively rare) occasions where it is the only option.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Norwalk, Iowa
Delays in Construction: Delays are often 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 usually be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.
Owner's Refusal to Pay: If the contractor completes the project, and the owner refuses to pay the agreed-upon price, the contractor will usually file a lawsuit to recover what is owed. Of course, the owner will usually claim that there is a good reason for not paying, arguing that the contractor didn't conform to the project's specifications, or that the quality of construction was unacceptably poor. In such a case, the court will have to determine if the contractor actually breached the contract by doing shoddy work, which could, at least in part, excuse the owner's duty to pay.
Subcontractor Disputes: In large projects, contractors often can't handle every aspect of the construction, so they hire other (usually smaller) contractors to do some specialized work for them, such as plumbing, electrical installations, and the like. The general contractor, however, 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. However, 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 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 allow 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 Norwalk, Iowa 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 essential to hire a Norwalk, Iowa construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.