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In an ideal world, your contractor would start and complete your construction project on time and within budget. With no surprises or to deal with, everyone would walk away pleased with the completed project.
However, that is not always the case. All too often, a project will go over the allotted time or come in higher than the proposed budget. In extreme cases, the project may be left unfinished and the contractor is nowhere to be found.
If you feel your contractor is not performing the project as expected or the job goes awry, you want to find the most effective way to settle the dispute (and hopefully get your project completed per specifications). The business law experts at Black Law P.A have outlined how to prepare your dispute and provide different options for reaching a mutually-agreeable resolution.
Review Your Contract
The signed contract between you and your contractor should contain the following:
- Project start date
- Scope of work/project
- Schedule to completion
- A clause addressing disagreements, re: schedule or quality of work
As with any contract or agreement, you should read it carefully before signing. If you think the contractor is non-compliant per terms of the contract, review it carefully so you can identify the clause you feel is being violated.
While areas of dispute may vary, the two most common issues are:
- Start and/or completion date of the project
- Contractor payment schedule (i.e. full payment at the start of the project, 50% upfront and 50% upon completion)
If the scope of work or proposed timeline changes during the project, you and your contractor need to make the necessary changes in writing and sign the revised agreement.
Options for Resolution
Speak To Your Contractor
Many times, you and your contractor can talk to settle any issues or disputes that may arise during the project. With a conversation and offer of goodwill, you can likely resolve a simple problem without additional time or expense. However, if the issue is more complex it may require legal assistance.
Mediation & Bundling Arbitration
Both of these options are non-adversarial. The goal for you and your contractor, with the help of a mediator or arbitrator, is to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation and arbitrator are used if the dispute is about constant rescheduled or other hard-to-quantify issues. Attorney fees are reduced since no record for appeal is required.
- Mediation. Mediation is often performed by a retired judge or a senior construction attorney. The role of the mediator is not to make a ruling or reach a decision; it is to help the parties reach a mutually agreed-upon decision. Mediation does not guarantee a resolution to the case, and in some instances, it doesn’t bring the parties any closer to reaching a settlement. The opinion is non-binding for either party.
- Binding Arbitration. Unlike mediation, binding arbitration renders a binding opinion (like the name indicates). In this option, an attorney or judge serves as the arbitrator by listing to both sides of the dispute and then rendering a decision.
If mediation or arbitration was unsuccessful or refused by either party, filing in small claims court is an option if the amount in question is small enough ($8000 or less in Florida). Unless otherwise stated in the contract, the case can be filed where the project is based, where the contractor operates, or where you live. You will need to pay a filing fee and any additional fees.
Once in small claims court, you will need to prepare and provide documentation as to how the contract is in violation. This documentation includes:
- A signed copy of your contract indicating the exact clause in dispute
- Written records of project timelines, payment schedules, and photos of work (or lack thereof)
- Receipts for materials and payments rendered
If the disputed amount exceeds the small claims court limit, you may need to file your case in civil court. An experienced Fort Lauderdale business attorney in contractor ligation can file your claim and help navigate the legal process.
At Black Law P.A., we serve small and mid-sized businesses to resolve legal issues using our blend of strategy, efficiency, and passion to produce the best possible outcome. We immerse ourselves in your case as if it were our own. And like you, we like to win.
To learn more about our services or schedule a no-obligation consultation, call 954-320-6220 or complete our contact form.