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  1. Disclaimer

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog should be interpreted as a substitute for professional advice from an attorney practicing in your community. Only local counsel can appreciate the business and legal environment under which a construction contract is drafted, negotiated and executed. Gary W. Moselle represents Craftsman Book Company, publisher of Construction Contract Writer.
  2. Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill

    A contractor does it right – and saves thousands. Most of my blog posts are about missed opportunities -- how a good contract could have avoided a costly mistake. But occasionally, a contractor does it right – and saves thousands. Consider a case decided last week by a Ventura, CA court. Plyley v. Renovating Specialist, Inc. (RSI). Here’s a summary. Continue reading →
  3. Powerful Words in Any Contract

    Powerful Words in Any Contract Disputes are common on construction sites. Every contractor knows that. And any dispute can derail a project – turn a potential money-maker into a money pit. Many disputes profiled on these pages became epic legal struggles lasting years. A few of those cases ran up legal fees more than the cost of construction. My advice: Stick to building. Don’t get stuck in a legal quagmire. The best way I know to stay out of court: Write contracts that require arbitration – alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Courts won’t touch a contract dispute that requires arbitration. Require ADR and there’s no right to sue. That’s a game changer when an owner or owner’s attorney threatens legal action. Continue reading →
  4. When Do I Need a Contract?

    Every construction project needs a contract. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia require a written contract on all residential jobs: AR, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MS, ND, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV and WY. Twelve states don’t require a written agreement but do require that the contractor deliver a set of written notices or disclosures before work starts: AK, AL, FL, GA, ID, KS, MN, MO, MT, OK, SD and WA. And the other seven states? You still have to provide the written Federal 3-day right to cancel on nearly any residential job. What Happens Without a Contract? Continue reading →
  5. Traps for Construction Managers

    Many experienced construction pros prefer working as construction managers rather than construction contractors. And for good reason. Compared to conventional construction contracting, construction management contracting offers major advantages: far less risk, very little working capital needed, no employees, no inventory, no payables, no warranties or callbacks, no investment, no liens. And it’s perfectly legal. Better still, some states don’t even require CM contractors to be licensed. More on that later. What’s different about CM contracting? A construction manager is a consultant to the owner, pure and simple. The consultant's job is to protect the owner against high costs, delay, shoddy work and risk of loss. No one else on the site shares that agenda. The CM recruits contractors and subs, schedules work, orders materials, and tells the owner when it’s time to pay bills. All contracts are in the name of the owner. So what could go wrong? Plenty. Here’s a short list. Continue reading →
  6. Wage Theft in New York

    New York construction contractors get a new headache on January 4, 2022. New code sections make prime contractors liable if subs don’t pay their employees or independent contractors. Hold your breath and think about that for a second. Suppose you’ve paid your subs on a project and have a full book of lien releases. Then, surprise! A sub’s employees, tradespeople you’ve never met, sue your company for back wages on the job. That’s an entirely new risk category. Continue reading →
  7. Awarding Damages in Florida

    Mike Judet's South Florida home was severely damaged by lightning in 2016. He accepted an offer from Cano, Inc. of West Palm Beach to make the repairs. The contract price was $300,000, payable in $30,000 installments. Cano started work. Judet made the first three payments, $90,000. Then Judet discovered a problem. Cano hadn’t bothered to take out a permit on either the plumbing or electrical work. Cano and Judet couldn’t agree on what had to happen next. So Judet stopped paying and terminated the agreement. Cano slapped a $40,000 lien on the project and sued for breach of contract. Judet’s counterclaim alleged breach of contract, asked for discharge of the lien and restitution of the amount paid in excess of the value of work completed. Now What? Continue reading →
  8. Mistakes in the Plans

    I’m old enough to remember when plans were drawn by hand. A designer who wanted a particular detail had to physically draw that detail line by line, considering each line as it was drawn. That’s not what happens today. A designer who wants a specific detail simply finds that detail in some old plan set. The designer clicks to copy...
  9. Home Improvement California Style

    Anna-Becky Redlich needed some work done on the bedroom, sitting room, closet and bathroom of her Hillsborough, California home. Nothing structural. The only changes would be cosmetic. Reliance Management Group offered to do the work on a cost-plus basis. The estimated initial contract price was $250,000. The down payment would be $1,000 plus a "retainer" of 10%. If you’ve done...
  10. Three-day Notice in Virginia

    The HVAC system in Elise Theyer’s historic Norfolk, Virginia home needed an update. Elise saw an ad for ductless mini split systems and called Norfolk Air Heating and Cooling to get a bid. Norfolk Air made a sales call. They quoted a ducted system on the first floor and six mini-splits on the second floor. Elise signed their agreement on...

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