Construction Dispute Law in Pennsylvania
Landowners and contractors in Allentown, Pennsylvania frequently contract with each other for major construction projects. With any large construction projects, some small delays or problems are all but inevitable, but they don't usually derail the project or lead to major disputes between the parties.
Typically, contractors and landowners can resolve minor disputes amongst themselves, without having to resort to litigation. Frequently, 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.
Even if someone else needs to get engaged to resolve a dispute, this does not automatically mean litigation is necessary. For example, the parties might attempt mediation, in which a neutral third party tries to help guide the parties to an agreement, but cannot render a binding decision himself. They might also agree to arbitration, during which a third party is able to render a binding decision. Arbitration is typically done through a private company, and may cost less than litigation, and is overseen by an arbitrator who is an expert in the relevant field.
Construction Dispute litigation in Allentown, Pennsylvania 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 Allentown, Pennsylvania
Delays: Some minor delays in a construction project are all but guaranteed to occur. Typically, if contracts require a specific completion date, the contractor will give itself longer than the project would take under ideal circumstances, to account for possible delays. Moreover, construction contracts usually attempt to insure against delays, such as imposing fees on contractors if the project is delayed beyond a certain point. If no such clause is included in a contract, a court will usually award the client damages that could have been reasonably anticipated at the time the contract was entered into.
Owner's Refusal to Pay: If the contractor completes the project, and the owner refuses to pay the agreed-upon price, the contractor will typically file a lawsuit to recover what is owed. Of course, the owner will typically claim that there is a good reason for not paying, arguing that the contractor didn't conform to the project's specifications, or that the quality of construction was unacceptably poor. In such a case, the court will have to decide if the contractor actually breached the contract by doing shoddy work, which could, at least in part, excuse the owner's duty to pay.
Subcontractors: With big construction projects, contractors typically hire other, smaller contractors to do some of the work for them. This is typically work of a specialized nature, which the general contractor isn't equipped to handle (such as plumbing or electrical wiring). The general contractor is the one who is responsible for the satisfactory completion of the project. If a subcontractor makes a mistake, or causes a delay, the general contractor is ultimately liable to the person who hired them. Nonetheless, if they are sued for the mistakes of a subcontractor, and lose, they can then sue the subcontractor to recover their losses.
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 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 Allentown, Pennsylvania 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 imperative to hire an Allentown, Pennsylvania construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.