It is a common occurrence for a home construction project to encounter delays, whether due to a change in project scope, weather conditions, delayed building materials, or a labor shortage. These delays can cause problems which can be avoided with a simple concept: open communication and clear provisions in a construction agreement.
Oftentimes, an issue arises early in the building process that, if identified and communicated early, could have been easily handled between the homeowner and contractor, yet one party remains silent. For example, a contractor may run into delays the building materials but fails to document the delay and immediately communicate this issue with the homeowner. In this scenario, the contractor can work with the homeowner to select alternate materials that are readily available to keep the project on schedule or agree to keep the materials with the understanding it will cause a delay with the project timeframe. This early identification allows for proactive problem-solving and can prevent minor issues from escalating into major delays and costly lawsuits.
Clear communication should also extend to the contract formed between the homeowner and the contractor. Project timelines should be well-defined, and any changes or modifications should be documented in writing, with both parties being made aware of the potential delay. This helps avoid misunderstandings and provides a solid foundation for resolving disputes should they arise. It never paints the contractor in a positive light when it is discovered a delay was discovered and it was not communicated.
Similarly, a homeowner should be required to inform contractors with known issues with the land (if doing a new build) or known issues with the house (if doing a remodel). Homeowners have a vested interest in the progress of the project, and should prepare the contractor for any issues known, preferably in writing, so the contractor can be proactive in handling the issue to avoid any delay with the build. To keep everyone on the same page as to uncovering issues with the project, it is highly recommended for the contractor and homeowner to have regular schedule updates. This not only builds trust between the homeowner and contractor but can also manage the expectations of both parties.
While a simple concept to understand, open communication can be difficult to implement. However, by fostering a collaborative and transparent relationship between the homeowner and contractor, many issues can be addressed before they are escalated into disputes. When delays do occur, a commitment to clear communication, documentation, and exploration of alternative means to accomplish the build can lead to a timely resolution of the delay, and ultimately save both parties the time, money, and stress of filing a lawsuit.
If you need help with your construction contract or in dealing with a difficult homeowner, we recommend you contact an experienced construction attorney.