Construction Dispute Law in New York

Owners of real estate in Canton, New York frequently 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.

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 the parties can't easily resolve their disputes, and someone else needs to intervene, that somebody doesn't always need to be a judge or jury. Many construction disputes call for mediation, during which a neutral third party helps the parties to the dispute negotiate a settlement. They might also go through arbitration, during which a third party renders a binding decision.

Because of the large cost in time and money involved, litigation in Canton, New York is considered a last resort. However, in rare cases, it does become necessary.

Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Canton, New York

Delays in Construction: Delays are frequently 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 typically be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.

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." Alternatively, 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 (typically 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 permit 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 Canton, New York Attorney Help?

Construction disputes and disagreements can be very challenging to deal with alone. The assistance of a Canton, New York real estate attorney can make the process of dealing with these disputes much quicker and easier.