Construction Dispute Law in Maryland
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Cumberland, Maryland, be it a house, landscaping project, or massive 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.
In the majority of cases, it's possible for landowners and contractors to resolve disputes amicably. There are many ways to do this, such as a simple verbal agreement to lower the contract price due to a mistake made by the contractor, for example, or an agreement to a slight price increase in the event of unforeseen obstacles beyond the control of either party.
Even if a third party gets involved, it does not always need to be a court. Private mediators can help the parties reach a settlement, or a private arbitrator who is an expert on construction litigation can render a binding decision, if mediation and negotiation fail and the parties can't resolve their dispute.
Construction Dispute litigation in Cumberland, Maryland 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 Cumberland, Maryland
Delays: Some minor delays in a construction project are all but guaranteed to occur. Usually, if contracts require a specific completion date, the contractor will give itself longer than the project would take under ideal circumstances, to account for possible delays. Furthermore, construction contracts usually attempt to insure against delays, such as imposing fees on contractors if the project is delayed beyond a certain point. If no such clause is included in a contract, a court will usually award the client damages that could have been reasonably anticipated at the time the contract was entered into.
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." Instead, 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: 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 Cumberland, Maryland Attorney Help?
Construction disputes and disagreements can be very difficult to deal with alone. The assistance of a Cumberland, Maryland real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.