Although the economy has not fully recovered from the recession and money is tight, now may be a good time to start that remodel or to build your new home. Local contractors are looking for work and building supplies and materials have dropped in price since the mortgage meltdown. If you are about to embark on a building project, this article will give you a few tips to help protect yourself in the event your construction project does not turn out as planned.
Construction litigation can be very complex and therefore very costly. This article cannot address every aspect or problem that could arise during a construction project. Even a small residential project, whether just a remodel or a new home, can have numerous components to it that must be tracked and verified. The paperwork involved in a construction project can be copious and complex. If you end up being in a position where you have no choice but to file suit, such a suit could be very expensive. It is always better to take whatever steps you can to protect yourself to avoid litigation, if at all possible.
Not every project will require that you hire an architect or a general contractor. If you plan to hire a general contractor, keep in mind that Colorado does not require a general contractor to be licensed so virtually anyone can give themselves that title. Be sure to get references and don’t be shy about contacting those references. Ask direct questions of those previous clients. Did the contractor get the job done promptly and within the time frames agreed upon? Did the contractor finish the job within budget? How was the quality of the work? How big was the punch list at the end of the project? Since many contractors feel most comfortable using the same subcontractors such as plumbers or electricians, ask about the subcontractors that were on the job because you are likely to see them working on your project.
Even if your project is small and you are not using an architect or a general contractor, be sure that everything is in writing! Start with an initial written contract that describes the project in detail. There are numerous types of construction contracts, be sure to read the contract so you know what it entails. Don’t be shy about asking questions and contact an attorney if your questions are not getting answered. The more complex the project, the more complex the contract should be. If your general contractor will be submitting periodic payment requests, be sure those requests are in writing, details the work done and the hours spent and describes and lists the material used.
Keep records! No matter the size of the project, there will be a tremendous amount of paperwork associated with it. Keep the paperwork and organize it in a logical fashion in case you need it later. If it is a big project, you should have several folders for the various portions of the job. Remember, if something goes wrong, you will have to justify and document your position. That means you will have to have invoices and receipts and be able to find them. If you end up having to file a lawsuit due to a problem with the work, you are likely going to be hiring an attorney. That means the attorney will want all of the records you kept. If you have them well organized, it will take the attorney less time to organize the material and assess your case and therefore save you money.
Take photographs! The digital cameras of today make it simple and easy to document every step of the work. Start taking pictures beginning with the excavation all the way through to the finished product. You don’t have to print them out until you need them in the future. Photographs are very helpful in the event you must pursue a lawsuit. They may disclose construction defects that you were not even aware of at the time the picture was taken. Sometimes a photograph can be the strongest evidence you have in a construction lawsuit. Take them and save them with the hope that you never use them.
Problems arise even with the smallest construction projects. Think ahead, maintain your records and document everything with paper and photographs. Contact an attorney sooner rather than later so that he or she can protect your interests. Not only will this practice give you the best protection in the future, but if your contractors know that you are paying attention to the project, they will do the same.
Originally published in The Steamboat Local