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What do I do when my construction project didn’t go as planned?

Washington state law offers several options when construction projects don't meet expectations.

Whether it's a new home for your family or a new office complex for your growing business, constructing a new building is a major undertaking. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly and there are no disputes with or between the architects, designers, contractors and subcontractors involved. But, if something does go wrong, it is important to understand that property owners have certain legal rights.

Of course, it would be unwise to try and resolve a major construction dispute on your own. These are serious claims with a lot at stake, and it is always best to get help from an experienced attorney. With that said, it can be helpful to understand when you might have a claim, so that you can decide if meeting with a lawyer is right for you.

What if my project took too long or finished way over budget?

If the construction project ended up costing significantly more than the agreed-upon amount, or if it took longer than was agreed to finish the project, the property owner may have a claim for breach of contract.

Generally, to demonstrate breach of contract, a claimant must prove three things: duty, breach and causation. For example:

  • Duty: A valid contract was in place, and that contract required the project to be completed by a certain date
  • Breach: The contractor breached that contract by not finishing the project on time
  • Causation: As a result of the contractor's breach, the property owner suffered some form of damages (e.g., lost income, rent paid elsewhere, etc.)

Whether or not breach of contract exists will likely turn on a very careful reading of the contract at issue. It is not unusual for construction contracts to have multiple provisions dealing with contingencies such as missed deadlines and cost overruns.

What if the building didn't turn out like I expected it to?

If the building was not constructed to specifications, the property owner may have a cause of action for breach of contract. Again, this will depend on the specific language of the contract at issue.

If there is a defect in the construction, the owner can make a claim against the responsible construction professional. The process for bringing a construction defect case is governed by Washington state law; generally, the owner needs to give notice of the defect and provide the responsible party with an opportunity to fix it or provide financial compensation before the owner can file a lawsuit.

It is also possible to have a cause of action for misrepresentation or fraud if a construction professional intentionally or negligently misrepresented facts or concealed defects in construction.

How can an attorney help me?

If you think you might have a breach of contract or construction defect claim, schedule a consultation with a construction law attorney. The attorney can walk you through the applicable laws and advise you on the relative merits of your case. If you decide to take action, the attorney can help you pursue full and fair compensation for your losses.

In the Seattle area, the attorneys at Jameson Babbitt Stites & Lombard PLLC represent property owners and construction professionals in a broad range of construction law issues.

Keywords: construction, real estate, breach of contract