Construction Dispute Law in Virginia
Landowners and contractors in Fairfax County, Virginia 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.
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 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 Fairfax County, Virginia 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 Fairfax County, Virginia
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 determine if the contractor actually breached the contract by doing shoddy work, which could, at least in part, excuse the owner's duty to pay.
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 Fairfax County, Virginia 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 necessary to hire a Fairfax County, Virginia construction disputes attorney, who can advise you on the next steps in the process.