Construction Dispute Law in Massachusetts

When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Dalton, 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, typically 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 typically 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 Dalton, Massachusetts is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.

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

Delays in Construction: Delays are frequently 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 typically be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.

Owner's refusal to pay: Contractors can also be the victims in construction disputes. 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 cases, 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: When a construction company is contracted to complete a large project, there is typically a great deal of specialized work to be done which they aren't equipped to handle. As a result, they hire other contractors, who, in this arrangement, are subcontractors, to do some of the work. However, the general contractor (the one that the landowner hired to do the work) is still responsible for the completion of the project - if a subcontractor causes a problem, the general contractor is on the hook for it. This sometimes leads to landowners suing general contractors for the mistakes of subcontractors. If the general contractor loses, and has to pay the client, the general contractor can then sue the subcontractor for whatever amount of money it 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 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 Dalton, 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 Dalton, Massachusetts construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.