Construction Dispute Law in North Carolina
Owners of real estate in Durham, North Carolina commonly contract with other parties ("contractors") for construction on the property they own. Such projects are likely to suffer at least a few minor setbacks, and any project also carries the risk of major setbacks, delays, or unexpected costs.
Normally, contractors and landowners can resolve minor disputes amongst themselves, without having to resort to litigation. Commonly, construction contracts contain built-in remedies for mistakes and delays that can be easily corrected, such as payments to the owner for every day the project is delayed.
And even if disputes can't be resolved so easily, the courts still don't necessarily have to get immersed. For example, a construction contract may require mediation before any further action is taken. Mediation is a process by which a third party tries to guide the parties to the dispute to a settlement. The mediator cannot, however, render any binding decision. Another option is arbitration. This is where the parties go to a private arbitration service, which can render a binding judgment (typically enforceable through contract law, as the parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision). Arbitration has advantages over litigation, as the parties can have a say in choosing the arbitrator (allowing them to have their case arbitrated by an expert on construction disputes, for example).
Litigation of a Durham, North Carolina construction dispute is never something that anyone wants to do. Nonetheless, there are sometimes no other options.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Durham, North Carolina
Construction Delays: Delays in construction are frequent sticking points between contractors and landowners. These delays can sometimes lead to litigation, especially if the construction contract makes it clear that time is an important factor, or if the contract mandates a certain completion date. In such situations, a court will often award the landowner compensation for any monetary losses he or she suffered as a result of the delay.
Refusal to Pay: Contractors can be on the other side of legal disputes, as well. Sometimes, the landowners who hired them refuse to pay. This is normally because the landowner believes that the contractor didn't perform under the terms of the contract, or that the work was unsatisfactory. If this is the case, it may ultimately be up to a court to decide who is right. If the contractor did, in fact, do poor work, the landowner will be excused, at least in part, from his duty to pay. If, on the other hand, the work was satisfactory, the court will order the landowner to pay the contract price immediately, and may award additional damages if the refusal to pay was done in bad faith, or if it caused foreseeable economic harm to the contractor.
Subcontractor Disputes: In large projects, contractors often can't handle every aspect of the construction, so they hire other (normally 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 Lien: When a contractor wins a lawsuit against a client for nonpayment of the contract price, and the client still refuses to pay, there is a problem: a monetary judgment means next to nothing if it can't be enforced. To solve this problem, the mechanic's lien has been developed. Basically, if a landowner refuses to pay a contractor, even in the face of a court order, the court can force a sale of the property that the contractor worked on, along with all the improvements on it, and then give the proceeds to the contractor, to secure payment.
Can a Durham, North Carolina 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 Durham, North Carolina construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.