Construction Dispute Law in Massachusetts

When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Berkley, Massachusetts, 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.

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, usually requiring the party that causes a delay or other problem to pay the other party a set fee.

Even if disagreements can't be resolved amongst the parties to the contract, they don't need to take their dispute into the court system. For instance, construction contracts usually call for mediation or arbitration before any disputes are resolved by the courts. Mediation is a process by which a third party serves as a sort of intermediary in settlement negotiations between the parties to the contract. The mediator can help keep negotiations on track, and suggest possible solutions the parties might not have thought of. The mediator can't issue a binding decision, however. Arbitration is a process through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be faster and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.

Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Berkley, Massachusetts is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.

Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Berkley, Massachusetts

Construction Delays: Delays in construction are common sticking points between contractors and landowners. These delays can sometimes lead to litigation, especially if the construction contract makes it clear that time is an important factor, or if the contract mandates a certain completion date. In such situations, a court will often award the landowner compensation for any monetary losses he or she suffered as a result of the 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 usually 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 significantly less than the contract price.

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 Berkley, Massachusetts 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 necessary to hire a Berkley, Massachusetts construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.