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Customers’ Remedies for Construction Delays

Construction projects are often intricate undertakings and delays are a frustratingly common occurrence. While a minor setback might be understandable, significant delays can wreak havoc on a customer’s finances. What happens when the wait for the job to start or progress stretches from weeks to months? 

A busy construction industry can be a double-edged sword for contractors. There’s more work available, but a high demand can lead to overbooked schedules. A contractor who takes on more projects than they can realistically handle can become entangled in a web of delays, leaving customers waiting for their project even to begin. If the start date is pushed back significantly without a valid reason, the customer may have grounds to terminate the contract and possibly to seek damages.

Construction contracts typically outline a timeline for completion and any deviation from that schedule can trigger a legal dispute. The crux of the issue of legal responsibility lies in determining the cause of the delay. Excusable delays, such as unforeseen weather events or delays in obtaining permits beyond the contractor’s control, generally won’t hold the contractor liable. However, inexcusable delays — caused by poor planning, subcontractor issues or material shortages that could have been anticipated — can open the contractor up to legal action from the customer.

So what recourse does a customer have when a contractor falls behind schedule? The first step is usually communication. A clear and documented conversation with the contractor outlining the delays and potential consequences can sometimes be enough to get the project back on track. However, if communication fails, customers need to explore legal options.

Depending on the severity of the delay and the terms of the contract, a customer may be entitled to several remedies. Liquidated damages, predetermined financial penalties outlined in the contract for exceeding the deadline, can be claimed to compensate for the inconvenience and potential financial losses. Alternatively, customers can sue for actual damages, which could include increased living expenses if forced to find temporary housing due to the delay or lost rent if the project was intended for a rental property. In certain cases, customers may be able to terminate the contract and recover any payments already made.

The best defense against construction delays is a well-drafted contract. Customers should clearly define the project timeline, outline potential delays and their consequences, and include a mechanism for resolving disputes. Hiring a qualified construction attorney to review the contract before signing is highly recommended. While a good contract can’t guarantee a delay-free project, it can provide a clear roadmap for dealing with the legal complexities that often arise when timelines unravel.

If you’re a customer experiencing a contracted project’s delays, an experienced construction litigation attorney can thoroughly investigate the circumstances and explain your legal options so you can make a cost-benefit analysis about how to proceed.

Law Offices of Donald W. Hudspeth P.C. in Phoenix represents parties in construction litigation matters throughout Arizona. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at 866-696-2033 or contact us online.

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Donald W. Hudspeth
Principal Attorney

Attorney Donald W. Hudspeth has more than twenty years’ experience practicing corporate and business law. Before attending law school, Mr. Hudspeth held a stock brokers license at the age of 21 and owned his own business at the age of 23. He was a business law professor at Arizona State University, West Campus, and has conducted classes and seminars for a number of higher institutions and organizations. Mr. Hudspeth has published two books on law and is the founder of the radio programs Law on the Edge and Law Talk.

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Mark S. Hamilton

About Attorney Mark S. Hamilton has experience handling all aspects of civil and commercial litigation in federal, state, and tribal courts at the trial and appellate levels. Practice Areas Business litigation Commercial litigation Education University Of Hawaii Wm. S. Richardson School Of Law, Juris Doctor - 2002 University Of Hawaii, Master Of Arts in Asian…

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