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Contractors have options when they lack a written change order

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2020 | Construction Litigation |

If you work in construction, you play an important role in modern society. Of course, you also face some headaches others easily avoid. To minimize your liability and maximize your potential for receiving payment, you likely have a written contract for all your jobs. A well-written contract also sets reasonable expectations. 

Very few construction jobs reach completion without some type of hiccup. That is, you may find hidden problems during the construction process. Alternatively, a property owner may change his or her mind about how the finished product should look. Getting a written change order is always the most favorable approach. This is especially true if your contract requires change orders to be in writing. If you finished a project without doing so, though, you may have some options for forcing payment. Here are a couple of them: 

Owner waiver 

While contractors and property owners should comply with the terms of the contract, that does not always happen. This is especially true in construction, where time is often essential. If a property owner previously paid for changes to work despite not having a written change order, he or she may have waived the requirement. Similarly, if the property owner has otherwise breached the contract, he or she may have waived the right to enforce other parts of it. 

Promissory estoppel 

If you did not technically comply with the terms of the construction contract in obtaining approval of the change order, you may be able to take advantage of promissory estoppel. This form of relief allows you to seek compensation for relying on a promise to your detriment. For example, if you send a text message about the necessary change and the property owner tells you to move forward, you may be able to force the owner to pay for the change. 

Both waiver and promissory estoppel are common ways contractors protect themselves when they do not have a signed change order. There are other options for asserting your legal rights. Regardless, if a property owner is refusing to pay for work you performed, you likely must act quickly to protect your financial interests.