Nineteen states have changed their construction contract law in the last few months. Some of these changes are trivial. Others will affect contractors throughout the state. In several cases, legislatures are simply falling in line, writing new statutes to mirror law adopted recently in other states. Highlights are below.
Craftsman Book Company
Why do so many construction contractors use lame contracts?
Builders who know better continue to use agreements that don’t comply with the law. That’s no way to run a business. And I think the day of reckoning is not too far off.
If not renewed, the 30% solar tax credit expires on December 31, 2016. Solar leases will be out. Solar loans will be in. Right now, the major residential photovoltaic leasing companies are ramping up loan programs to replace their lease deals. A solar contractor I know predicted what’s going to happen when installations start under these new loan programs. I’ll let him explain.
Every contractor and subcontractor has to deal with warranty – a claim that something wasn't done right and should be fixed at no cost to the owner. If you haven’t had a warranty claim yet, stand by. It’s going to happen. Nearly all states either require an express (written) warranty or impose an implied (understood) warranty on residential contractors. See my blog post of June 12, 2014.
For owners, warranty is simple. Just complain to the prime contractor. For contractors, warranty can be anything but simple. It’s a blame game. Who’s at fault? The subcontractor? The designer? The material supplier? The inspector? Lawsuits can resolve finger-pointing problems like that. Join everyone on the job as a defendant and let the jury decide.
Have you heard those words from an owner? Last week I got a call from a contractor who had been told exactly that. He still had tools and equipment on the job. He was owed money. His crew and subs expected to be paid. Now what?
A contractor terminated for good cause could be liable for both the extra cost of finishing the job and the cost of fixing everything the owner didn't like about the original work.
What would you do?
Pick up a contract for any good-sized commercial or industrial project and you’ll be holding 50 to 100 pages. I’ve never seen a contract for a significant public works project shorter than 50 pages. Even the most popular A.I.A. model contract (A201) is 40 pages.
You’ll see the words “defend, indemnify and hold harmless” in many construction contracts. That’s an indemnity clause – and it can be toxic for contractors. I’ll explain.
One common form of indemnity gives an owner or a designer the right to recover from a contractor for every loss on the job, even losses caused 100% by the owner or a designer. Is it fair to make a contractor cover losses like that?
Mike and Cheryl Ording had a leaky basement in their Milwaukee home. A salesman for Everdry Waterproofing offered to solve the problem. According to the Ordings, the salesman claimed they “would never have water in their basement again” if Everdry did the waterproofing. Reassured, the Ordings signed the contract. A few weeks after work was done, the Ordings noticed water in their basement. They called Everdry. Before Everdry showed up, a storm flooded the basement five feet deep. Everdry offered to lend the Ordings a pump but insisted that any damage was not their problem. The Ordings sued.
A fire on September 7, 2009 did serious damage to the home of David and Carol Butler. The Butlers selected Purofirst of Milwaukee to do the repair work and signed an "Authorization" form provided by Purofirst. The Butlers moved out and Purofirst went to work. Six months later, work was done and the Butlers moved back in. Purofirst suggested writing up a punch list of any defects the Butlers found. Purofirst fixed some items on the Butlers' punch list but insisted others were not their problem. The Butlers didn’t like that. They refused to make the final payment. Purofirst filed suit to collect.
Subs and suppliers expect to be paid on time. That’s a problem when an owner is slow to pay the prime contractor. So what are you supposed to do about slow-pay? The obvious answer is a “pay-if-paid” clause in your subcontracts. With “pay-if-paid,” a prime contractor doesn’t have to pay subs until paid by the owner. That’s legal in about half of all states. If you’ve never used a “pay-if-paid” contract clause, keep reading. There’s a lot to learn.