Christopher G. Hill, Esq., one of my favorite construction attorneys in Virginia, and author/publisher of Construction Law Musings, recently was invited to write an article for Hanley Wood’s Professional Deck Builder magazine. The title of the article says it all: “Contract Language Is Key to Avoiding Litigation.”
Some of the larger disputes that I’ve dealt with center on unclear expectations; that is, when the homeowner has one idea as to how the project will be completed and the contractor has a different idea. Without specific – not necessarily complex – language in the contract detailing how the project will progress, disputes are almost inevitable. The resolution of those types of disputes falls to third parties such as judges or arbitrators who were not a part of the original bargain. All they have to go on is the testimony and documents presented to them; unclear language leaves room for argument, which may lead to a settlement that differs from what the original intent of the agreement was. At the least, this may leave a contractor with a large legal bill even if he or she prevails.
Three of the main areas to set expectations for in a contract are scope of work, changes to the work, and dispute resolution.