Construction Law Attorney in Los Angeles, California
Say you own a piece of property and decide to develop it into a shopping center, so you make a deal with a construction contractor to do the work for you. Of course, the contractor will then assign many of the construction tasks to subcontractors, and before they can do anything, an architect will have to specify the details of the center.
In other words, there are many contributors to the successful completion of a construction project, along with many interlocking obligations and contracts. Things can go wrong, and disputes can erupt over different issues, including anything involving workmanship, products, timelines, cost overruns, and even change of plans — or interference — by the owner.
You certainly want to resolve these disputes before they end up before a judge, where the future of the whole project could get delayed as the civil case drags on and on.
If you’re planning a construction project, or involved in one where problems have arisen in or around the Greater Los Angeles, California Area, contact us at the Builders Law Group, Inc. for reliable legal assistance. We have more than 15 years of experience in construction law and can analyze your situation and guide you toward the best options available to get the project done and resolve any misunderstandings or disputes.
Our team at Builders Law Group, Inc. proudly serves clients throughout the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, and San Diego, California.
Overview of Construction Law
Construction law is largely contract-based. However, there are also federal, state, and local regulations. There are zoning restrictions, requirements of specific permits, workers’ compensation, and other safety considerations, and certainly financing and obtaining a clear title to the development of the property.
In general terms, under construction law, both the owner and the contractor must expect to act in good faith regarding their contractual obligations. For construction contractors, courts have held that they owe a duty to perform in a workmanlike manner, which means a contractor must inform the owner when problems arise, whether it be from the specifications, the scarcity of materials needed, safety issues, or anything else that may delay or threaten the project.
On the other side, courts have held that owners have a duty to cooperate with contractors and not interfere or purposefully delay the completion of the project. This could involve suddenly changing the specifications once the project has begun and then expecting completion not to be delayed. It can also involve failing to make timely payments to the contractor as specified in the contractual agreement.
Contract Drafting and Negotiating
Perhaps the most essential step in a construction project (once the land is acquired, zoning requirements met, permits obtained, and specifications cleared) is drafting a contract between the owner and the contractor. Attention to detail is essential here. You don’t want to just fill in some blanks on a standardized form and sign it off.
There’s too much at stake. Both sides should ensure their rights, interests, and obligations are clearly delineated. That’s why each side should be represented by an experienced construction law attorney to draft and/or review the final contract to include everyone’s best interests.
Common areas to be covered in a contract include construction plans, material specifications, contract price, timeline, insurance obligations, bond obligations, payment schedule, warranties, methods for resolving disputes, and penalties for failure to perform.
Breaches of Contract
If either side of a construction company fails to live up to their obligations, then that may be seen as a breach of contract. For instance, the contractor fails to meet the timeline goals, and the project is not only taking longer to complete than anticipated, but costs are also rising. Another example could be an owner who withholds payment because of less-than-expected workmanship or a delay in completion.
A breach of contract can end up in civil litigation, which could complicate the completion of the project even more. That’s why it’s important to have specified methods for resolving disputes in the actual contract.
Negligence and Defects
All parties to a construction project owe a duty of care to those involved in the construction. That is, they must ensure that the highest professional and safety standards are met. If someone is injured, they may be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance of the contractor, but if they are injured by another subcontractor’s action, then that subcontractor can be held liable.
Material defects can also lead to safety issues. If electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating and ventilation systems are done using substandard products or with less than professional standards, people can be injured even after the project is completed.
Of course, the ultimate dispute-resolution method is through a civil lawsuit over breach of contract, but as noted, that can be counterproductive, delaying the project further and driving up costs not only on the project but in the court case itself.
Direct negotiation is generally the first step. It is vital to retain the guidance and counsel of an experienced construction attorney. In fact, attorneys from either side may need to directly negotiate.
Mediation is another method of resolving conflicts and disputes outside of the courtroom. An independent mediator will hold a session with all parties so they can air their grievance or their side of the issue. The mediator will then meet separately with each side, and in a final session, the mediator will propose a resolution, but the resolution is not mandatory.
Arbitration is another route, which is mandatory and resembles a court case. The arbitrator is often a former judge. Both sides will present their evidence and arguments, and the arbitrator will issue a resolution, which, as noted, is almost always binding.
Construction Law Attorney Serving Southern California
For all your construction questions and concerns in the Southern California region, contact the construction law attorney at the Builders Law Group, Inc. for dependable legal direction. We will assess your situation — before, during, or after construction — and explain your legal options clearly. We also stand ready to assist in any negotiations and certainly will represent you if any litigation arises.