Construction Dispute Law in Indiana
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Elkhart County, Indiana, be it a house, landscaping project, or huge office building, there's always a chance that problems will come up, no matter how careful everyone is. A few minor setbacks are almost inevitable, in fact.
Usually, contractors and landowners can resolve minor disputes amongst themselves, without having to resort to litigation. Often, construction contracts contain built-in remedies for mistakes and delays that can be easily corrected, such as payments to the owner for every day the project is delayed.
Even if someone else needs to get involved to resolve a dispute, this does not automatically mean litigation is necessary. For example, the parties might attempt mediation, in which a neutral third party tries to help guide the parties to an agreement, but cannot render a binding decision himself. They might also agree to arbitration, during which a third party is able to render a binding decision. Arbitration is usually done through a private company, and may cost less than litigation, and is overseen by an arbitrator who is an expert in the relevant field.
Litigation of an Elkhart County, Indiana construction dispute is never something that anyone wants to do. Nonetheless, there are sometimes no other options.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Elkhart County, Indiana
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 finishes a project to specifications, and the owner of the property doesn't pay the contractor, the contractor will most likely file a lawsuit to recover the agreed-upon price. In such cases, the owner will usually argue that the contractor's work wasn't of acceptable quality. In these cases, the court must decide who first breached the contract. In these cases, it's the party who did not breach first who wins the lawsuit. If the court finds that the contractor breached the contract through sub-quality work product, the owner will not be liable for payment (though he may have to pay for materials and labor), and if the court finds that the construction was acceptable, the owner has to pay, because he is the party in breach.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors usually hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is usually 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 Lien: When a contractor wins a lawsuit against a client for nonpayment of the contract price, and the client still refuses to pay, there is a problem: a monetary judgment means next to nothing if it can't be enforced. To solve this problem, the mechanic's lien has been developed. Essentially, if a landowner refuses to pay a contractor, even in the face of a court order, the court can force a sale of the property that the contractor worked on, along with all the improvements on it, and then give the proceeds to the contractor, to secure payment.
Can a Elkhart County, Indiana Attorney Help?
Disputes over construction delays or defects can be extremely taxing. Therefore, getting an experienced Elkhart County, Indiana real estate attorney might mean the difference between success or failure in your business ventures.