Construction Dispute Law in Massachusetts
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Marblehead, Massachusetts, be it a house, landscaping project, or wide office building, there's always a chance that issues 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 disagreements 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 procedure through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be quicker and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Construction Dispute litigation in Marblehead, Massachusetts is usually time-consuming and expensive. But it is sometimes necessary, usually as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Marblehead, Massachusetts
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 decide 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, nonetheless, 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. Nonetheless, the contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever he had to pay.
Mechanic's Liens: A mechanic's lien is a way for a contractor to secure payment if a landowner declines to pay. In such cases, if the contractor sues and wins, he or she can sometimes impose a mechanic's lien on the property he or she just worked on. This allows the contractor to force a sale of the property to cover the judgment. It is usually used when other attempts to secure payment fail.
Can a Marblehead, 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 imperative to hire a Marblehead, Massachusetts construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.