Construction Dispute Law in Minnesota
When the owner of some real estate and a contractor enter an agreement for a construction project in Ramsey County, Minnesota, 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 overwhelming majority of instances, however, these problems are resolvable, and do not lead to major disputes. Being rational, business-minded adults, landowners and construction contractors are usually able to resolve disputes amongst themselves. After all, both stand to gain if the project is completed, and the contractor is paid.
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.
Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Ramsey County, Minnesota is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Ramsey County, Minnesota
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: if the contractor finishes a project to specifications, and the owner of the property doesn't pay the contractor, the contractor will most likely file a lawsuit to recover the agreed-upon price. In such cases, the owner will usually argue that the contractor's work wasn't of acceptable quality. In these cases, the court must decide who first breached the contract. In these cases, it's the party who did not breach first who wins the lawsuit. If the court finds that the contractor breached the contract through sub-quality work product, the owner will not be liable for payment (though he may have to pay for materials and labor), and if the court finds that the construction was acceptable, the owner has to pay, because he is the party in breach.
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. However, 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 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 Ramsey County, Minnesota Attorney Help?
Construction disputes and disagreements can be very difficult to deal with alone. The assistance of a Ramsey County, Minnesota real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.