Construction Dispute Law in Maine
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in South Portland, Maine, 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.
In the majority of cases, it's possible for landowners and contractors to resolve disagreements 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 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.
Construction Dispute litigation in South Portland, Maine 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 South Portland, Maine
Major Delays: If the contractor or a subcontractor is at fault in causing a large delay to a project (several months, for example), this may lead to a lawsuit. If the contract stated that time was of the essence for some reason (maybe the project was a new store that the owner hoped to open before the holiday shopping season, for example), a court can usually award the owner any damages that were caused by the delay.
Refusal to Pay: Disagreements 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 occasionally 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.
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. Nonetheless, if they are sued for the mistakes of a subcontractor, and lose, they can then sue the subcontractor to recover their losses.
Mechanic's Liens: Sometimes, when a contractor wins in a case 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 South Portland, Maine 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 South Portland, Maine construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.