It’s going to happen eventually, and it might even happen a few times a year. You end up in a dispute with a contractor, subcontractor or client. Some disputes are easy to resolve, while others might put a halt on the project. Since time is always money for your contracting business, trying to avoid disputes is one of the best things you can do to keep the work going. Here are a few tips you can use to get everyone back on the same page.
Communication is a big key to keeping a disagreement from becoming a formal dispute. Without it, what you have is two parties who are left trying to make decisions independently. This means that you have to work together on a regular basis before you start the project, in order to hammer out the plan and confirm that the specifics will meet everyone’s requirements to proceed. You need to keep up this communication throughout the project, possibly as often as every day. Even if you feel like the other party is acting unreasonably, be sure to focus on professional interactions. Maintaining an open path to discussion increases the likelihood that you’ll find a fair compromise.
Get Details in Writing
Having a phone conversation or a meeting in which you discuss specific aspects of the project is often a requirement for construction work. It also can be insufficient. Both sides may think that they remember what they agreed to do. Without documentation, it’s your word against theirs. If your previous contract didn’t include enough details to proceed, now’s the time to try to fix that. Follow up a verbal conversation with an email or other written record to show what you discussed and confirm that everyone now understands what is going on.
Address Inconsistencies Promptly
Contracts often include a lot of jargon or vague terms that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. It’s tempting to ignore them and see if they actually become a problem, but this can make the situation worse. Disputes are more likely to cause bigger issues over time, particularly if some aspect of the initial plan led to work that’s no longer meeting the requirements of the project. To avoid investing too much time going in the wrong direction, carefully analyze all the terms in the contractt. Ask questions or clarify if something seems unclear or likely to cause problems.
Solve Problems for the Future
When you first start a contracting business, it may feel like you are reinventing the wheel every time you begin a new project. Although this should dissipate in time, your approach makes a big difference. Getting through a tough dispute should prompt you to evaluate what you could change to avoid the problem in the future. Some issues are truly not of your doing, but there are ways you can minimize their effects. If the dispute is related to design, which is an increasingly common issue in construction, revising the way that you create and collaborate about design could pave a smoother path for the future.
Many contracts stipulate that relevant parties will attempt to negotiate a satisfactory arrangement before escalating the dispute. While getting together and figuring out how to move forward can often solve the problem, it isn’t always effective. In this case, you may want to hire a mediator to ensure that each side can communicate their concerns. Having an objective third party might be enough to get everyone on the right track. It may also save you the time and effort spent bringing it to arbitration or litigation. In those cases, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to advise you of your rights and obligations.
People are human, and sometimes they disagree over the details of a construction project. Learning how to navigate disputes is part of keeping your business afloat. To begin building your construction career, visit CSLS today!