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Types of Construction Disputes

Whether it’s the rebuilding of a business or the construction of a brand new commercial project, a construction project is an exciting new development involving various parties.

In some cases, however, the project may be derailed by various types of standard construction disputes. You need to know your legal rights and options to understand how to move forward when a dispute has arisen.

What Are Common Construction Disputes?

Simply put, construction disputes involve a disagreement or breach of contract, where one party fails to perform according to the contract terms they have in place for a construction project. A building and construction contract is an agreement or contract between parties to complete a construction project. The involved parties must perform according to and adhere to the contract terms. If one party breaches the contract, the other can sue for damages.

Generally, construction disputes involve the following parties and claims:

  • Claims by builders against homeowners, which can include claims for non-payment or builders claiming a mechanic’s lien against the homeowner’s property
  • Homeowners filing claims against builders or contractors for delayed or unfinished work or poor workmanship
  • Claims filed by contractors or subcontractors against homeowners for a change in the scope of a project
  • Third-party claims, such as those filed by suppliers, subcontractors, or professional consultants for non-payment

Disputes Over the Scope of the Work

What are they? This particular type of construction dispute usually boils down to one thing: expectations. A client or homeowner may expect the job to be performed a certain way, while the contractor may have an entirely different outlook on how the finished project should look. Or, a subcontractor may fail to understand the extent of the work they agree to perform, or a supplier may not fully understand the specific materials that are expected for receipt by a contractor.

How to avoid them: Clear communication regarding expectations is the best way to avoid confusion over the scope of the work. Discuss expectations with as much specificity as possible, and be sure you include them in your contracts and any other important documentation. It is also important to track the development of the project carefully so that potential issues or confusion about the scope of the work can be recognized and addressed as early as possible.

Disputes Over Changes to the Original Scope of the Work

What are they? As the work begins to take place and the contractor begins to perform, it is likely that the original scope of the work will change. Whether it’s a lengthier timeline, the unavailability of certain materials, or concerns about the project’s original design, changes to the scope of work are common sources of construction disputes.

How to avoid them: Your initial discussions regarding the scope of the work should account for some potential considerations that the scope may change — and it should provide for contingencies if that should be the case. Clear expectations about what might happen when things — almost inevitably — go wrong, or are less than perfect, can help avoid disputes down the line.

Disputes About Site Conditions

What are they? A dispute regarding site conditions tends to happen when a condition that could not reasonably be foreseen arises during the work being performed. For example, there might be rocks, utility lines, or debris buried where originally, the contractor expected to find soft soil. These site conditions may be markedly different from what was stated in the contract; they may even differ from what is considered normal in the industry.

How to avoid them: As mentioned above, it is important to account for potential disputes regarding site conditions at the outset and determine contingencies if a problem arises. It is also important to understand each party’s responsibilities for disputes about site conditions and to establish a way for moving forward if they occur.

Trade Disputes

What are they? Trade disputes arise when the work of a tradesperson, such as an electrician or plumber, causes damage, added expenses, or delays during the construction process. Trade disputes can also be difficult to predict, particularly if there is no way to accurately identify the specific source of the mistake.

How to avoid them: For starters, if things go wrong, each tradesperson’s specific responsibilities should be memorialized in contracts, with plans in place and responsibilities clearly spelled out. This way, all parties involved can have a single source of agreed-upon terms to refer back to.

What Should You Do If You Find Yourself in a Construction Dispute?

If a construction dispute cannot be avoided, you should discuss your legal rights and potential options with an experienced construction dispute attorney. They will be able to review your contracts, investigate the key facts regarding performance and related issues, and advise you regarding the next best steps to take in your case.

There are various ways of resolving construction disputes, including filing a claim for breach of contract, negotiating with the other party, or engaging in a dispute resolution process such as mediation. With any of these, however, you should not try to do it alone — construction contract disputes can be complicated and take a long time to resolve. A knowledgeable lawyer can be invaluable for resolving the issues.

How Can Nix Patterson Help?

Construction disputes are common and can be the source of some difficult issues. Having our experienced construction dispute attorneys on your side means having the peace of mind that we will explore all potential ways of resolving your dispute. Our team of construction dispute lawyers will take charge of your case and do what needs to be done to remedy the wrongs that occurred in your construction dispute case.

Our experienced construction dispute lawyers have knowledge of construction laws, understand the requirements of all dispute resolution methods, and have the extensive experience necessary to resolve the dispute effectively.

Nix Patterson offers clients legal services to safeguard their rights and interests, ensuring they successfully manage their construction projects. Let us work with you to resolve all your construction disputes swiftly and effectively. Contact us at 512-328-5333 or reach out online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. 

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