Construction contract disputes

We represent both contractors and home owners in disputes arising out of construction contracts.  Some recent cases:

  • A small contractor agreed to do a job for a homeowner.  There was an initial estimate, but it didn’t include everything that the homeowner wanted done.  For example, the “estimate” included a price for the contractor to frame new walls, and a price to paint the walls.  The parties agreed that the contractor would do the work contained in the Estimate, for the prices shown on the Estimate.  But the homeowner thought that the contractor was not only going to frame the walls, but also to put on the sheetrock and prepare the surface for painting.  The contractor thought that the homeowner was going to arrange with a subcontractor to do the sheetrock work.  In the middle of the job, when the contractor started to do the sheetrock work, neither side realized that the other side had a different expectation about whether the sheetrock work was included in the Estimate.   There were other miscommunications, many of them based on the fact that the Estimate was never converted into a true contract, and the contractor did not get written change orders for the additional work.
  • A contractor agreed to do a major renovation for a homeowner — about a $250,000 job.  This was a reputable contractor, with good references from good clients.  As the work progressed, there were changes in the work, and the contractor and homeowner executed written change orders for most of them.  One of the big problems arose over the construction of a retaining wall.  Was it included in the original contract or not? When the contract talked about building a wall for a garage and doing the grading for the garage, was the retaining wall included in the fixed-price contract?  Once the contractor and the homeowner started arguing about that detail, other details became points of contention.  Eventually, the contractor sued the homeowner, and the homeowner countersued.  After two days of trial, the judge made rulings on about 25 different issues.

Most of the construction contract disputes that we see are between well-meaning and honest people who are fighting over a contract that is poorly drawn, or over the failure to get written change orders.  Sometimes we get involved in construction disputes where the contractor is not properly licensed.   In virtually every case, the dispute should be mediated or arbitrated rather than tried.

We have experience with these cases, and we will help you look for the most cost-effective solution.  Call us at 434-293-8185.