Construction Dispute Law in New York

Owners of real estate in Southold, 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 overwhelming majority of cases, 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 a third party gets incorporated, it does not always need to be a court. Private mediators can assist 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 Southold, 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 Southold, 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.

Refusal to Pay: Disagreements can also arise from a client's refusal or inability to hold up his end of the deal. Sometimes, once a project is complete, or nearly so, a landowner will express an unwillingness to pay the contractor for his services. There might be a variety of reasons for this - sudden loss of money, or dissatisfaction with the quality of the work are a few examples. It's rare that a client will refuse to pay a contractor simply because they don't feel like it (and if that is the reason, they'll usually come up with a better one to argue in court). In these cases, a court will occasionally have to decide if the client is obligated to pay the full price. If the work was, indeed, not up to the standards laid out in the contract, the contractor is not entitled to the full price, but is still entitled to the actual value of the work, even if it's significantly less than the contract price.

Subcontractor Disputes: With very large 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. Nonetheless, it is the general contractor who is ultimately responsible to the owner for the satisfactory completion of the project. So, it is very necessary to the general contractor that subcontractors do a good job. If the subcontractor causes a delay or other issue, 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 case 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 Southold, New York Attorney Help?

Construction disputes can be time-consuming and costly. Hiring a reputable Southold, 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.