Construction Dispute Law in New York
Owners of real estate in Smithtown, 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 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 typically able to resolve disputes amongst themselves. After all, both stand to gain if the project is completed, and the contractor is paid.
Even if a third party gets involved, it does not always need to be a court. Private mediators can help the parties reach a settlement, or a private arbitrator who is an expert on construction litigation can render a binding decision, if mediation and negotiation fail and the parties can't resolve their dispute.
Construction Dispute litigation in Smithtown, New York is typically time-consuming and expensive. But it is sometimes necessary, typically as a last resort.
Examples of Construction Disputes That Might Lead to Litigation in Smithtown, 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: With very considerable construction projects, general contractors don't always have the resources to do all the work themselves, so they hire other contractors to do some of the work for them. However, it is the general contractor who is ultimately responsible to the owner for the satisfactory completion of the project. So, it is very important to the general contractor that subcontractors do a good job. If the subcontractor causes a delay or other problem, and the owner sues the general contractor as a result, the general contractor can then go after the subcontractor to recover whatever it lost in the lawsuit.
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 Smithtown, New York Attorney Help?
Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a knowledgeable Smithtown, New York real estate attorney can make it much easier to deal with such disputes, and help you avoid litigation, or prevail if litigation becomes necessary.