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Construction delays could lead to lawsuits between the property owner and the contractor, with both parties having the ability to sue the other. Both parties could end up suing each other in court cases and counterclaims. Before proceeding legally, it is important to understand the cause of the delay.
Not All Delays Mean Legal Liability
Some construction delays are unavoidable. For example, inclement weather could slow down construction. These could fall into the category of excusable delays. However, other delays may be caused by negligence or intentional actions. Whoever is to blame for the delay could face legal liability.
If the property owner is the cause of the delay, the contractor incurs extra costs for labor and renting equipment. Contractors may also forgo other work while they maintain the capacity to complete the delayed job. Property onwers can cause delays by changing the design or not making the property available when the contractor is able to work. There may be specific contractual provisions that apply to these types of delays.
Lawsuits Against a Contractor for the Delay
However, oftentimes, it is the contractor who is the source of the delay. They could run into construction difficulties or not have enough people to do the job. The contract between the parties may give the property owner the legal right to seek compensation for certain delays. The delay must be unreasonable before the homeowner would be entitled to compensation unless there is a specific liquidated damages provision. The contract should define what would be considered unreasonable.
The facts of the case could also determine what is unreasonable. For example, if contractors are late because they are not diligently working, they could be liable. However, unreasonable delay cases are not easy wins for the plaintiff because they will need to overcome the contractor’s excuses for the delay. The contractor could have a colorable argument for why they were late. Just because contractors are late does not mean that they must automatically pay damages unless there is a liquidated damages provision expressly provision for liability and payment of damages.
Consulting with a Construction Attorney
Not every delay must lead to a lawsuit. Many court cases are avoided when attorneys from both sides engage early and come up with a solution. In some cases, they can renegotiate the contract to stay out of court. However, it is crucial that each party engage a construction attorney early in any possible dispute to work out the issues if the parties cannot work things out on their own. Hiring an attorney could help parties understand their legal rights and options.