CONSTRUCTION LAW AND DISPUTES

Construction law and Construction Dispute

Introduction

The construction laws include all the legal attachments of any construction process of a building or any structure whatsoever. The jurisdiction of the construction laws is wide and can be executed at the federal, state and even local levels of the state. There are statutes that are implemented by the federal governments and are universal all over the United States. For instance; the federal state can have laws guiding the employment of construction workers and the safety of the working areas. These is because economic differences cannot affect the terms of employment and the safety of the employee no matter what state they operate in (Legal Resources, 2018). The implementation of federal laws in the states is then carried out by the local governments because they are closest to the ground and people can easily get access as opposed to get direct address from the federal government. The state laws can cater for the safety of the environment because they states have different environmental concerns. This is a factor that is solely affected by the difference in geographic locations. The local governments then deal with issues that affect the people more directly like noise and the safety of the residents around the construction areas.

Parties involved in a legal construction process

In construction laws, there are many factors that come into play. People in construction have a wide array of people they deal with when putting up structures and this translates to legal interactions. For instance, there has to be a contract between the investor and the contractor, the investor and the government and the contractor and suppliers among many others. This means that the law in construction is as important as the materials required. At the same time, it is important to note that construction laws vary in different countries. The laws in the United States are not the same as those in the United Kingdom and any other country. The construction law is contained in the Practice Note which is also known as the Contract Documents for the construction processes. 

The Practice Note and its Contents

The Practice Note has all the contacts that pertain to the construction job to be undertaken. This includes the definition of the contents and purpose of each documents required for the various contracts that should be signed. Additionally, the contacts that require to be signed have conditions attached to them. The conditions contain the conditions to be met requirements that each party should have. The parties are usually the employer and the contractor (Find Law, 2018). The employer is usually presented with a list of requirements and the proposal by the contractor. When they reach an agreement at this point, a contract is signed. The Practice Note has a lot of important information to guide the construction laws. This is because it also contains the detailed breakdown of the various pricing structures. There is the lump sum which is the fixed cost, the remeasurement cost which is the; unit, measure and value costs put together, prime cost which includes; the cost, reimbursable cost and the cost reimbursed and finally, the target cost which is the pain vs. gain pricing structures.

Construction Laws in the different Government Levels

The implementation of construction laws can lead to conflicts given the many levels of making laws and the many sections that make up the construction laws. This is because the magnitude of the dispute may demand response from all three levels of law makers. However, the smaller issues tied to constructions can be handled by the local governments (International Comperative Legal Guides, 2017). This includes injuries that occur accidentally. There are other issues that require legal redress like the construction defects which are often leading up to avoidable danger to the users of the building or structures. For instance; when the defect is with the stairs and balconies in a building, then people can easily plummet to their deaths when a rail comes off from the balcony or the stairs. This is a problems that will drag in the employer who in turn will have to seek answers from the contractor. There is also a legal problem that comes up when the contractor cannot obtain the required paperwork authorising the construction to proceed. These documents usually include an approved plan and a building permit.

Terms in the Construction Law

There are terms that are common in the construction law. They include; defect, which is an error that occurs in building and can be dangerous if not rectified. There is the Mechanic’s Lien which is the way a construction company ensures they receive payment for their work on the structure or building. This is an assurance that payment for the building activities are made. A contractors is a licensed individual or company that has the necessary permits to work in the construction or repair of buildings. They usually are recognized by the governments (Find Law, 2018). There is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which is an agency that acts on behalf of the federal government to ensure that the health and safety of the construction workers is well catered for. Finally, in the construction law section, the American Institute of Architects draw up the construction papers for standard contract laws in construction.

Construction Disputes

The disputes in the construction industry are many. They include disputes that occurs between the owners of the property and the contractors. The contractor may take too long or deliver substandard work which is enough ground for the property owner to seek legal redress unless the delay was caused by circumstances beyond their control. The property owner may default in payment for work done by the contractor. The contractor has a right to sue the homeowner in this case. The disputes that may arise between a contractor and a homeowner may be endless but all the scenarios are factored in in the Practice Note (Legal Resources, 2018).  The construction laws are also applicable when the government is looking to hire a contractor for the state. At this point, the construction law incorporates the tendering law. This is because the government has to advertise and open up a tender to which various contractors will respond and the best qualified is awarded the tender. 

Government Construction Contracts

Working on a government project means that the construction of the government property will be a contract between the state and the contractor in the form of a tender. When dealing with government construction jobs, the contractors are always advised to have a lawyer who will interpret and advise them accordingly on the terms which are always subject to change. This makes the government one of the most difficult clients for contractors. As a result, the legal teams for the contractors have to be vigilant so that the contractors do not incur losses for lack of knowledge and correct interpretation of the terms of the contract.

Worker’s Compensation in Construction Laws

The workers’ compensation law is also tied to the construction laws. This comes about when the workers get injuries and have to be compensated.  The laws on compensation are put in place to protect the safety of the construction workers. The contractor and the owner of the work are bound by the contracts that they sign. These contracts demand that both parties engage in good faith to avoid the owner getting poor results and being over-priced. At the same time, the contractor should be treated by the owner in good faith and have their dues paid in good time (Legal Resources, 2018). The contractor is obliged to advice the owner of the risks in the construction work when it is likely to occur and offer a solution. This means that s contractor should not blindly follow the instructions of the owner when they know that the end product will be substandard. A contractor that with holds such information is can be sued by the owner and the court will prosecute accordingly. 

Contractor-Employer Engagement Terms

The owner is required by law to follow the advice of the contractor. This means that when a design is rejected by a contractor for safety reasons, the owner should comply. This will ensure that the safety of all the parties involved is well taken care of. On signing the contract, the owner must live up to their end of the bargain. This means that they cannot interfere with the work of the contractor without reasonable concerns like the security of the workers and the safety of the environment. The owner can also terminate the contract with a contractor who fails to perform as per the agreement. The contractor can also demand payment for work done and walk away when the owner frustrates his work.

Rights of Parties Involved in Construction Contracts

When dealing with construction laws, it is important to be in touch with the rights of parties. For instance, a contractor has a right to go to court to compel the owner to pay their dues. This occurs when the contractor has finished the work and the payment takes too long to be completed. A property owner must understand the building codes. This will always ensure that they make the appropriate choices and avoid being defrauded by contractors who will take advantage of their ignorance. Both the home owners and the contractors have to be well equipped with the knowledge of the construction laws. Additionally, the contractors and the property owners must always enlist the services of a qualified lawyer with expertise in the field of law. The construction laws sweep far and wide in the law sector (Find Law, 2018). There is a law that is concerned with each and every part of the construction process right from the planning up to the final payment processes. This means that with the right legal counsel, all the people involved in the job can easily get justice when they need it. The construction laws also reassure every single person involved in the job of security in case anything happens to them. The law is responsible for the safety of the investment, the environment, the work hours put in by the contractor and even the safety of the workers. Additionally, the suppliers are also covered by the law when they sign a contract contained in the Practice Note. This way, nobody gets to loose when everybody acts in good faith.

Additional Construction Laws

  1. Disabilities Act

There are other construction laws that need to be adhered to by the contractors and mainly the homeowners. When putting up commercial buildings for rentals and businesses, the Americans with Disabilities Act comes into play. Here, the homeowner has to ensure that there are washrooms that can cater for people with disabilities as well as ramps for wheelchairs and other necessary provisions for people with disabilities. This is because these people have a right to sue an owner if they cannot access the building for lack of these facilities. The penalty for the violations of the provision of the facilities for the Americans with Disabilities could range from fines to orders of modification of buildings to accommodate them. 

  1. Liability Laws

There are liabilities that a land owner may face. The law can have a landowner prosecuted for extending their premise beyond the legal space and on to public land causing accidents like in cases where the land owner has built on the side walk. This will mean that pedestrians may get hit by cars when attempting to get past the section that the landowner has encroached. At the same time the law limits liabilities in the cases where accidents occur just outside the premise (Legal Resources, 2018). This means that once an individual leaves the premise, anything that happens to them cannot be blamed on the land owner. A landowner has to be aware of their rights and be informed so that they do not get into perceived legal troubles. It also goes to show that the law is well written to protect the innocent people and reprimand those who go against it.

  1. Building Maintenance Laws

In New York, a commercial landlord may be sued for injuries that occur while on the premise if it was caused by a defect. This means that every landlord has to ensure that the safety standards of their building is top notch. This means that if the building meets all the standards then the inured party has no claim. This is also because in New York, there are strict guidelines for the construction of buildings. There are also maintenance directions that have to be followed to maintain the safety standards of the buildings. Any breach in all these laws exposes a landlord to a law suit in case of injuries acquired while on the premises. The landlord can avoid all these by personally being responsible enough to ensure that maintenance is carried out as stipulated in the law. The landlord can delegate this duty to an agency which will require that he signs another contract to protect his interests as well as of those who use his property.

  1. Construction Expert Witness on Defects

There is a construction expert witness in construction law, who deals with accidents that occurs as a result of defects. The accidents often cause major damages like maiming or even death to the victims. The expert in this incident is charged with observing the situation and investigating to find the cause of the accident. The causes of the defects could be caused by faulty and substandard materials sold by the supplier. In this case, the supplier will be held accountable for the accidents. The defects could also be caused by the contractor overlooking details. In this instance, the contractor is accountable for the accident (International Comperative Legal Guides, 2017). Usually the penalty for accidents that occur on site is that the victim is compensated by the one at fault. In the event that the victim dies, then the compensation is given to the family. In the case of suppliers with substandard materials, their licence may get suspended and the business investigated causing huge loses in the process. When the contractor causes the accident, then they may lose their licenses and be required to train afresh for the job. Accidents on construction sites are usually very costly when they occur in other circumstances that cannot be termed as being purely accidental.

  1. Land Sales Act

In the construction laws, the incidences of fraud are many. As such, the Interstate Land Sales Act and Its Implications is a body that has been set up to prevent fraud that pertains to land sales. At the same time, the body is also concerned with ensuring that the interpretation of the sales of lands is well understood and nobody gets short changed in the process (Legal Resources, 2018). This is important in ensuring that at no point do two people purchase the same piece of land without their knowledge. This means that the body has proper land ownership records to save people from losing their investments or engaging in court battles that would have been avoided. This is for the security of property owners’ investments.

  1. Real Estate Laws

The construction laws incorporate real estate laws as well. This is because real estate has to go through the construction phase before it starts becoming profitable. Additionally, the real estate businesses have to abide by all the construction guidelines of the states where they are located. This means that a state with a defined maintenance procedure of the building must be followed to avoid unnecessary court procedures. Additionally, when it comes to dealing with real estate investments, tax laws apply. This further intertwines the construction and tax laws. In preparing the income generated by the real estate investment, an investor has to be very careful to ensure that they do not end up with tax evasion lawsuits (International Comperative Legal Guides, 2017). The real estate business has to have insurance policies as well. This means that the property owner must have secured their property to absolve themselves of liability in case any harm comes to the individuals. This will ensure that the property owner will not be required to compensate the tenants in case of an accident because the insurance companies will handle it.

Bodies that Oversee Construction Laws and Disputes in the United States

There are bodies that are charged with construction laws across the United States. They have different responsibilities but with a common goal of ensuring that buildings are safe and of good quality as well. The group of lawyers who deal with construction matters have an association called, the American Bar Association. It is a forum for the construction industry. Here, the property owners can get all the advice and guidance they require from lawyers with the expertise on legal issues tied to construction. There is the American National Standards Institute. It is the body that is concerned with the quality of buildings that contractors put up every other day. It is the body that designs the guidelines that should be adhered to when constructing structures, the types of materials to use as well as the equipment that is right for the job. There is a body that is concerned with offering advice on the safety of putting up buildings in areas that are prone to earthquakes. This is the Building Seismic Safety Council (Legal Resources, 2018). All these bodies can sue a property owner or contractor who endangers people by ignoring their advice and direction.

There is the construction specifications institute which is charged with designing the specifications of buildings. This is the body that determines how high a building can go and what type of materials that can be used to ensure that the building is of good quality and standards. The body is generally there to ensure that all the issues pertaining to construction are done in accordance to all the laws of the land. There is a body that deals with energy efficiency in buildings. This they achieve by ensuring that the buildings that are coming up steadily conform to all the energy conservation guidelines set up. This means that the energy efficiency and sustainable design standards for new federal buildings body ensures that new constructions are created in a way that the energy they consume is within the legal standards (Find Law, 2018). This means that going against the guidelines set by the body can earn an owner days in court and a penalty as well. 

The Housing and Urban Development body is supposed to enforce the public law 102-522 which directs that buildings should have adequate fire response gadgets in place (Find Law, 2018). This means that they have to ensure all buildings comply. The house owners and the contractors can be held liable for any extensive damage caused by lack of these facilities in their premises. The construction acts are many and they all work towards attaining safety in buildings for both the people and the investors as well as the contractors. The government has put measures in place on all levels to ensure that construction of buildings is done in such a way that its durability is not questionable. Aside from durability, good buildings should not be easily damaged when natural calamities like earthquakes and floods occur. Technology has made it easy to mitigate natural calamities when it comes to the safety of buildings. 

Conclusion

To conclude, construction laws are important for the well-being of the consumers at the end of the day. They could be tenants, shoppers in malls and even the home owners in their own homes. It is important to understand that during constructions, both the homeowners and the contractors have legal obligations towards each other. The home owners are required to present their ideas and what they hope to achieve at the end of the engagement clearly. The contractors on the other hand are required to present clear proposals to the client. This process needs a legal experts to ensure that all the parts are catered for. All the possible scenarios should be covered in the Practice Note to ensure that only unforeseen circumstances can cause the parties problems. The lengthy contracts are especially tricky for an owner who does not have legal guidance because they can sign terms that they are not familiar with. It is for this reason that the American Bar Association is in existence to ensure property owners can get it right when hiring a contractor. 

References

Find Law, 2018. What is Constrcution Law. [Online]
Available at: hirelawyer.findlaw.com/choosing-the-right-lawyer/construction-law.html
[Accessed 19 March 2018].

International Comperative Legal Guides, 2017. Construction and Engineering. [Online]
Available at: iclg.com/practice-areas/constrcution-and-engineering-law/construction-and-engineering-2017/usa
[Accessed 19 March 2018].

Legal Resources, 2018. Construction Law. [Online]
Available at: www.hg.org/constrcution-law.html
[Accessed 19 March 2018].

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