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What is the Best Way to Handle a Construction Dispute?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The best way to handle a construction dispute will depend on several factors. These include the nature of the problem, the role of the person who is experiencing the problem, and the jurisdiction in which the issue arises. When disputes cannot be settled by referring to the contract, alternative dispute resolution may need to be considered. If the construction dispute arises between a client and subcontractors, the original contractor should be consulted. Issues regarding non-payment for services or unwarranted liens can be handled by following the proper legal procedures.

When a construction dispute arises regarding work that has been done or should be done, the best first step is to review the contract. A contractor is generally not obligated to do anything that he did not agree to, and the client is usually not liable to pay for any services that she did not request. If the issue is one that cannot be settled by reading the contract, it is best for the two parties to try to reach a cordial agreement. In instances where this is not possible, it may be necessary to enter into alternative dispute resolution.

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Sometimes a person will enter into an agreement for construction services with one party. That party may not personally be able to fulfill all of the terms of the contract, and he may enlist subcontractors. If this happens, both the property owner and all subcontractors should approach the original contractor if there is a construction dispute. The property owner should realize that she does not have a contractual relationship with subcontractors who work on her property, and therefore she generally has little if any authority to make demands of them. Subcontractors should take their directions from the original contractor and be sure to consult with him before making any changes that are requested by clients.

It is common for a construction dispute to arise due to non-payment for services rendered. Although a construction worker generally cannot undo work that is done, there may be legal action that he can take. Many jurisdictions allow contractors to place mechanics liens on the property of their clients. Doing this will prevent the client from selling or refinancing the property without paying what is owed to the contractor.

If the construction dispute arises because a property owner is subject to a mechanics lien but she feels she should not be, there is a legal process that will allow her to solve this issue. That commonly involves making a written demand to the contractor who placed the lien to explain it or remove it. If the contractor refuses, the matter can be taken to court and the contractor will have to justify the lien. If he cannot, the court can order it to be removed.

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