To state the obvious, the best way to stay out of disputes is to attend diligently to your work, meet the schedule, assure quality performance, and keep all lines of communication open.
But there are a handful of key areas that tend to spawn disputes, and special attention to these areas can stop disputes from occurring or from spiraling out of control.
A. Document the job. Keep a superintendent’s log; prepare daily reports daily; send faxes or e-mails as problems or questions may arise (RFI’s and otherwise); follow up to tie up loose ends instead of leaving them hanging. And if you get someone on the other side who seems to enjoy writing fiction in communications with you, NEVER let any inaccuracies go uncorrected by a written response.
B. Pay your bills. Leaving subs and suppliers unpaid, even if it’s because you yourself are awaiting payment, is asking for war to open up on several fronts at once. It is important to know that “pay when paid” is NOT a legal standard. Either it’s in a written contract, or it isn’t. If it isn’t and you aren’t paying, you are in breach, and you are courting trouble.
C. Submit payment applications promptly, completely and in the proper format. Don’t give the other side a ready excuse for not paying you.
D. Avoid starting change order work unless and until you have a writing from the other side directing the work and acknowledging that it is “extra”. Whenever possible, reach agreement on price, or unit prices, before starting. Then document your progress the same as for base contract work. If the other side refuses to put CO requests in writing, send a fax notifying them that because they will not authorize the change properly, you will have to proceed with performance per the original contract documents in order to stay on schedule. Be familiar with change provisions in your contract documents and follow them strictly; many standard forms contain prompt notification clauses with swift deadlines and provisions that untimely submissions are deemed waived. And, when submitting CO’s, be sure to include extra days as necessary to avoid later imposition of delay damages. Leaving such things for later resolution is apt to result in your getting no credit at all.
E. Finally, be willing to compromise to keep the job moving. You don’t have to take a bath, but you don’t have to have everything exactly your way, either. Be the kind of guy they will want to deal with again on the next project.
The materials on this website are meant for informational purposes only and nothing contained in this site is to be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney directly. Do not act upon the information on this site without seeking professional guidance. Information on this website about specific matters or success in previous cases is not meant to be a prediction or guarantee of similar results in any other case. Each case consists of factors and applicable law unique to that case and you should consult an attorney.