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Sorting out liability for construction delays: work with experienced attorney, P.1

Previously, we mentioned the importance of homeowners taking precautions to protect themselves when working with contractors on a project. One of the important precautions homeowners and property owners should take is to ensure the agreement they enter into specifies clear completion dates and remedies for resolving disputes over liability for construction delays.

Construction projects can be complicated and delays can happen. It doesn’t have to be an issue, if the project schedule is set up properly and there is good communication between all the parties involved. When confusions arise, though, or when mistakes are made, delays can have a significant impact on the project timeline and can result in significant losses or additional costs. 

Some construction delays are excusable, while others are not. Those that are excusable can entitle either the property owner or the contract—whichever party is responsible for the delay—to a time extension or compensation. Excusable delays can include things like owner-requested changes to the project, errors or omissions in the project design, or poor weather. Delays that aren’t excusable are those which are listed in the contract as assumed by the contractor.

In addition, some delays entitle the contractor to compensation while others do not. Construction contracts typically list the types of delays that are considered compensable. In the absence of such terms, though, it is generally the case that the party that could have avoided a delay by exercising reasonable care is responsible for any costs associated with the delay. Contractors are usually not able to recover for compensable delays, though, if there is a concurrent delay—a delay which occurs over the same time period as the other delay. Contractors may be held legally responsible for delays caused by subcontractors, but it depends on the specific relationship the contractor has with the property owner.

In a future post, we’ll say a bit more about this issue, and comment on the importance of working with experienced legal counsel to resolve disputes over construction delays.

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