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Contractor-subcontractor disputes can be a problem for everyone

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Construction Litigation |

When the relationship between a contractor and a subcontractor breaks down, it can mean disaster for a construction project and everyone involved. Generally, the contractor is responsible for the work of the subcontractors, but ultimately, the property owner may be ultimately responsible to make sure everyone gets paid. If a subcontractor isn’t paid by the contractor, they can seek to get their payment by putting a lien on the property.

In this blog post, we will introduce some of the common causes of contractor-subcontractor disputes — and ways to avoid them.

Common causes of contractor-subcontractor disputes

Generally, these disputes stem from disagreements about:

  • The scope of work: Many disputes involve a disagreement over how much the subcontractor must do. If the terms of the contract are unclear, the subcontractor may feel the contractor is asking them to perform extra duties they never agreed to do.
  • The quality of work: Contractors sometimes feel that the subcontractor’s work falls short of their expectations. When the expectations are unclear, this can lead to complicated disputes.
  • Payment: Typically, the property owner pays the contractor, and the contractor pays the subcontractor. In larger projects, there are multiple subcontractors, and there are a lot of stops along the chain of payment where things can go wrong. Many challenging disputes come about after payment is delayed, or not delivered as promised.

Ways to avoid common disputes

The best way to avoid these disputes is by having good construction contracts in place. Contracts should spell out the scope of the work involved and the expectations for quality. They should also be as clear as possible about payment, including the timing and method.

Sadly, even the most thoroughly drafted contract in the world can’t account for everything that goes wrong in a construction project. That’s one reason it’s important for the parties to communicate well before and after the contract goes into effect — and this means all the parties. The owner should make their expectations clear, and this clarity should go throughout the chain of contractors and subcontractors.

All this said, there are situations in which the contract is thorough, the communication is clear, but one or more parties are still not happy. When complaints turn into legal disputes, it’s important to have skilled professional representation.