Your attorney is a phone call away

A primer on change order disputes

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2023 | Construction Defects

Despite having a strong construction contract in place, you and your business can run into complications when things don’t go as planned. That’s why many construction contracts end up having to be changed before a project’s completion. These modifications, known as change orders, can occur dozens of times during the course of a project, and if you don’t know how to protect your interests throughout, then you could end up on the losing end of the bargain.

Therefore, as you move forward with your project, you need to keep in mind some of the complications that can arise and how to address them. Let’s look at some of those issues here.

Waiver of the written change order

Although modifications to an existing contract are best put in writing so that all parties understand their obligations under the new term, sometimes things move too swiftly to capture everything in writing. However, in these circumstances, you need to ensure that the waiver is clear so that you don’t end up facing conflict and legal issues later on.

Waiver can either be express, such as when a statement is made that a written change order isn’t required or the waiver is put in writing, but it can also be based on the conduct of the parties. So, it’s best to get any waiver in writing, but if that time has passed, then you might be able to look at how the parties acted to protect your interests.

Poor documentation

A lot of change orders are created in an attempt to clarify inadequate documentation that was created on the front end of the project. The scope of work may need modifying, or the schedule of work completion may need to be changed. But it’s key that you clarify these matters before engaging in work. Otherwise, if you take on work without waiver or a clear change order, then you might be fulfilling duties that go unpaid.

What can you do to protect your interests when change orders arise?

Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do. First, make sure that the terms of the change are crystal clear. You need a complete understanding of the work that’s to be performed.

Second, ensure that you’re addressing time requirements. If you don’t specifically indicate that additional time is being added for the completion of the work, then the original time constraints of the original contract will apply.

Third, slow down and take the time needed to ensure that you’re protecting yourself. In the fast-moving world of construction, we know this can be difficult to do. But you don’t want to rush into an agreement or hastily complete work without first ensuring that your interests are protected.

What should you do if you run into a change order dispute?

You’ll certainly want to gather all relevant documentation. While this includes the original contract and any written change orders that were in effect, you’ll also want to secure all written correspondence to and from the parties, as these records can be indicative of the parties’ intent.

Also, be sure to diligently record your expenses and the value of the work that you provided. Your receipts and payroll can help you document the damage that’s been caused by a change order dispute.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you know the law and how to use it to your advantage. These matters can be technical and complicated, which is why now is the time to start thinking about the best way to approach your case. Hopefully with this knowledge on your side you’ll be able to obtain a fair and favorable outcome while also protecting your interests as you move forward with other projects.