Builders and contractors in Massachusetts rely heavily on contracts to define the scope of the work to be performed and what is expected of them. In most cases, everything goes smoothly. However, there are five types of disputes that tend to arise between a general contractor and their subcontractors, or between one subcontractor and another.
While these disputes are often contentious – with thousands of dollars and everyone's reputations on the line – most can be resolved without going to court.
The most common dispute that contractors have with each other is nonpayment for services rendered. Especially for small contractors who do not have much in the way of cash reserves, not getting paid – or even a delay in payment – can be crippling to their business.
There are, however, effective steps that unpaid contractors can take that are short of filing a full-fledged lawsuit.
One of the most common is to seek out a reach and apply injunction, which is a court order for the debtor to make the payment. Unpaid contractors can also request a bank attachment to freeze the non-paying party's account or can send a formal demand for payment that threatens legal action if it is not made.
2. Scheduling Disputes
Many disputes that arise between contractors revolve around when the work is to be performed. Especially when constructing a building or another large scale project, the schedule and sequence of events is crucial. One subcontractor's delay can push the whole project off schedule.
3. Using Unapproved Material, Personnel, or Techniques
Occasionally, disputes arise over the materials being used, who is doing the work, and how they are doing it. This is especially common when general contractors give their subcontractors lots of leeway in making these decisions. It is not unforeseeable for subcontractors to maximize their profits by choosing off-brand, budget, or surplus materials or hiring inexperienced workers.
These issues happen most often when the contract failed to adequately specify what materials must be used, making it difficult to determine whether the subcontractor's decisions amount to a breach of the construction contract.
4. Building Defects
Some disputes between contractors arise after the work has been done. If the work is not up to par or expectations, the contractor who did it can be accused of construction defects. These are serious allegations. They are also frequently levied by the owner of the property, whose expectations may have been unreasonable.
A serious dispute is when one contractor does not perform at all. Only in rare cases is this a willful failure – most instances of complete nonperformance stem from other problems, like a shipment failure of the materials to be used, or the contractor went out of business. Nevertheless, contractor defaults like this can put the entire project in jeopardy through no fault of the general contractor or the other parties involved.
Most Disputes Can Be Resolved Outside of the Courtroom
A big problem with these issues is that there is a lot of money involved and everyone has a reputation that they need to protect. When everyone wants to avoid the blame, everyone is quick to point fingers at others. This creates a contentious atmosphere where meaningful negotiation is difficult.
However, it is not impossible. With the help of a contract attorney who is familiar with the construction process, general and subcontractors can reach a mutually-agreeable and cost-effective resolution to their disputes without going to court or even filing a lawsuit. If they cannot reach an agreement on their own, they can take their case through mediation or arbitration to help resolve the problem.
Massachusetts Construction Contract Attorneys at the Katz Law Group
General contractors and subcontractors in Massachusetts have been turning to the construction attorneys at the Katz Law Group for decades to resolve their disputes and protect their interests. Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202 for help in Worcester, Framingham or Marlborough, or in Middlesex or Norfolk Counties.