Construction Dispute Law in New York
Owners of real estate in Orange County, New York often 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 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 disagreements can't be resolved amongst the parties to the contract, they don't need to take their dispute into the court system. For instance, construction contracts usually call for mediation or arbitration before any disputes are resolved by the courts. Mediation is a process by which a third party serves as a sort of intermediary in settlement negotiations between the parties to the contract. The mediator can help keep negotiations on track, and suggest possible solutions the parties might not have thought of. The mediator can't issue a binding decision, however. Arbitration is a procedure through which the parties agree to have their dispute resolved by a third party, which can render a binding decision. Arbitration can be quicker and cheaper than litigation, and it has some other advantages, as well.
Construction Dispute litigation in Orange County, New York 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 Orange County, New York
Delays in Construction: Delays are often 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 usually be liable to the landowner for any harm resulting from it.
Owner's refusal to pay: Contractors can also be the victims in construction disagreements. 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 situations, 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: When a construction company is contracted to complete a large project, there is usually a great deal of specialized work to be done which they aren't equipped to handle. As a result, they hire other contractors, who, in this arrangement, are subcontractors, to do some of the work. Nonetheless, the general contractor (the one that the landowner hired to do the work) is still accountable for the completion of the project - if a subcontractor causes a problem, the general contractor is on the hook for it. This sometimes leads to landowners suing general contractors for the mistakes of subcontractors. If the general contractor loses, and has to pay the client, the general contractor can then sue the subcontractor for whatever amount of money it had to pay.
Mechanic's Liens: If the contractor sues a land owner and wins, he will likely obtain a monetary judgment. If the owner declines to pay, the contractor needs some way to recover. This is where the mechanic's lien comes into play. It allows a contractor to force the sale of the land or other real property that he just worked on, and use those proceeds to cover costs.
Can a Orange County, New York 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 crucial to hire an Orange County, New York construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.