Change Orders: Inevitable…But Also, Sometimes Avoidable
Of everything that can happen during a construction project, one thing that causes the most conflict, and which leads to litigation most frequently, are change orders. The best advice to avoid the problem is to avoid change orders at all, but that’s like saying to avoid being cold in the winter; change orders are inevitable and you need to learn to anticipate and handle them when they happen.
Of course, one thing you may be able to do is to minimize change orders on your construction project, to avoid a construction lawsuit in the first place. Here are some reasons why change orders most commonly happen.
The first “problem” is trusting an owner in the first place. This isn’t to say that every owner is dishonest; many times disclosures aren’t made to contractors out of an innocent failure to do due diligence or an owner making an assumption that turns out to be incorrect.
But the old adage “trust but verify” is applicable here for contractors, to avoid unnecessary and avoidable changes later on.
Are there words in your contract that are subjective? For example, does a structure need to be “pleasing” or “artistic” or look “modern” or be “retro?” These are terms we use all the time in daily life, but they don’t have any real contractual or legal definition, and can be highly subjective. You don’t want to end up with change orders because you and the owner have different opinions of what state of the art” looks like.
Coordination Between Contractors
If the electrical contractor, the HVAC company, and the welding company all work independently, they have no idea what can and can’t be done or what each others’ needs may be. Make sure that all contractors and subcontractors are in on plans from the beginning, to ensure that what is in the contract is actually doable by all parties.
Mind the details. Are all dimensions in the drawings accurate? Does the owner actually own the land that is being built on or have permission to build there? Time must be accurate as well—just because someone wants the project completed in a certain number of days doesn’t mean that it reasonably can be. Be realistic when it comes to time expectations.
Always account for foreseen delays that can lead to hardships and change orders. For example, if you are building in the Florida summer, anticipate hurricane related delays. If the project uses materials that are hand to come by, or which fluctuate in value, account for those in the contract as well.
Make sure that your contract allows you to get paid for any additional costs related to change orders that aren’t your fault, if you are the contractor.
Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 for help today if you have a construction law related legal problem.