What is Construction Law?
Construction law includes a variety of different matters to include construction contracts, construction financing, construction management, construction disputes, licensing, bonds and insurance, construction defects, construction liens, land use and zoning, and government permits and inspections.
“A contractor has a standard form of construction contract. Is it necessary to have a lawyer review it?”
There is no such thing as a “standard form contract.” Every contract has been prepared to cover different purposes and they contain different provisions. It is important that you understand what is in the contract and what is not. A lawyer experienced in construction law can assist you in making sure your rights are protected.
“My construction contract is a firm price contract. My contractor has indicated that he will build my house for a set price of $250,000. Under those circumstances, is there any reason why I should have a lawyer review such a contract?”
It certainly would be important to have an attorney review any construction contract, even a firm price one. Firm price contracts oftentimes are not as firm as they might appear. It is important to be aware of what is included in the price and what is not included in the price. Normally, firm price contracts will contain allowances for various items. For instance, there may be an allowance of $20,000 for carpet or $25,000 for plumbing fixtures or lighting fixtures. It is important to know who the contractor came up with this pricing and verify that the type of carpet or fixtures are of the quality and standards that you expect to have in your new home. Likewise, there oftentimes are provisions in firm price contracts that call for the owner to supply finished fixtures or plumbing, lighting, appliances, etc., so in computing the overall cost for your new home (or remodel), it is important to realize that these are not included in the firm price and add them to the overall cost.
“How can I check on the work my contractor has done in the past?”
Contractors are licensed and regulated by the Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB). Their website is www.ccb.state.or.us. You can check on the status of a contractor’s license, bond and insurance at the CCB website. You can also see if he has had any complaints filed against him with the CCB.
Additionally, you should ask him for a list of references and go look at his work. Finally, you can generally check with the various city and county planning departments where he has done work to get copies of permits. This would provide you with information on work that he has done other than his references.
“I am in a dispute with my contractor who I believe has done a poor job and has breached the contract. How do I get him to pay for getting the job done correctly?”
The first thing you should do is to contact an attorney who is experienced in construction law. There are several avenues available to you but the first and most important would be to have an independent evaluation of the nature of the claimed defaults of the construction contract and the best way to address any potential damages you may have suffered. It is also going to be important to file a complaint with the Construction Contractors Board (CCB) in order to ensure that you will have access to the contractor’s bond as a way to recover some or all the damages you may have suffered. A lawyer familiar with construction law will also be able to advise you on the administrative remedies available to you through the CCB as well as the legal remedies available to you through the court system and assist you in making an informed decision about which would be the best way for you to proceed.
“I just learned that a construction lien has been filed against me by a subcontractor who claims that my contractor failed to pay him. What are my remedies?”
Hopefully, you’ve not paid your contractor all the money owed him under the terms of the contract. If you have not, you would want to check with him to see why the lien has been filed and why he has not paid the subcontractor. If he claims there is some dispute between him and the subcontractor, you will want to contact an attorney to assist you in resolving the dispute with your contractor as well as protecting you with regard to the lien that has been filed.
“Do I need a lawyer to assist me in managing a construction contract?”
No, generally, you do not need a lawyer to assist you in the management of a construction contract, however, consulting a lawyer before you’ve entered into a construction contract will provide you with information about the best way to manage the contract during its performance and alert you to various problem areas that frequently arise.
Authored by Warner E. Allen, Partner
Warren Allen LLP
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is based on Oregon law and is subject to change. It should be used for general purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal advice by Warren Allen LLP, or its attorneys. Neither this website nor use of its information creates an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific legal questions, consult with your own attorney or call us for an appointment.