Resolving Construction Disputes: Three Strategies for Issue Resolution

You entered into a contract to have renovations made to your residence or office building or to have it built from the ground up, thinking all would end well. However, work wasn’t performed to your expectations or completed on time, or you find yourself otherwise embroiled in a contentious situation with the general contractor. If you’re wondering how to go about resolving construction disputes, we’ll provide you with three strategies for issue resolution that can help you resolve your differences in a time-and cost-efficient way.

Start by Negotiating Resolutions With Contractors

The first strategy you should employ to resolve conflicts with a builder is to try reasoning with them. If you spell out your concerns and why you have them, whether it’s because the issue renders your home or office building not structurally sound, it poses a fire risk, or something else, it may motivate them to fix the issue just by you providing a more substantive reason aside from it seeming it’s merely a preferential matter. 

In situations like these, letting the party you’re negotiating with know that you’re trying to resolve the matter amicably to avoid having to escalate the issue can help you reach a meeting of the minds. 

Pursuing Mediation or Arbitration To Resolve Disputes With Construction Companies

While resolving construction disputes amicably via negotiation between just you and them is ideal, if you’ve already unsuccessfully pursued this option, reviewing the terms of your construction contract to see if it contains a mediation or arbitration clause should be your next course of action. 

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) outlines how mediation and arbitration aren’t the same. The national organization explains how a mediator’s responsibility is to help agitate parties embroiled in conflict toward an agreement. They may additionally offer private opinions to the different factions when requested; however, mediators cannot give public assessments of a case’s integrity or act as a judge. The role of an arbitrator centers around providing a fair and equitable forum in which the dueling parties can voice their concerns, honing in on where the truth lies, and assessing a just award to the wronged party.

So, in construction cases like these, the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method referenced in the contract will dictate whether the conflicting parties decide the outcome (mediation) or if a third party does (arbitration). Construction contracts that contain mediation or arbitration clauses require parties to try to resolve their disputes behind closed doors via this option before pursuing litigation. 

It should be noted that arbitration is much like presenting a case in court but without the public forum, so this is the most time-involved and costly of the two ADR options described above. Also, an arbiter’s decision is legally binding in most jurisdictions, so it carries much the same weight as a judge entering an order in the courtroom. In contrast, mediator decisions are non-enforceable.

Pursuing Litigation To Resolve Disagreements With Contractors

When negotiating a settlement by conversing with a construction company or reaching a resolution via mediation or arbitration isn’t successful, litigation may be the next best option. There are different court systems within which you can file a civil lawsuit against a business such as a construction company. For example, according to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, the maximum threshold for filing small claims court cases in our state’s counties ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. According to the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court, our county’s maximum filing threshold is $10,000. 

Once the amount of losses you claim exceeds that amount, it may be necessary to escalate the matter within a different court system. For example, the North Carolina Judicial Branch resource highlighted above outlines how requests that exceed the smaller limits above, up to $25,000, must be filed in district court. In contrast, ones where you’re requesting more than $25,000 have to be pursued in superior court. 

Contact Our Construction Law and litigation Attorneys at Anderson Jones, PLLC for Help When Disputes Arise

Contentious matters between home and business owners and contractors can quickly spiral out of control, costing all parties involved a lot of wasted time and money if they don’t resolve them sooner rather than later. Fortunately, there are graduated options, as outlined above, that, if employed, can help you reach an amicable resolution sooner and at a lower cost than pursuing litigation. However, if litigation becomes inevitably necessary, it can be of great value to have experienced construction litigation lawyers on your side to build your case and advocate for you in the courtroom. 

Our experienced team of litigators at Anderson Jones, PLLC, is ready to provide you with sound advice for resolving your construction dispute. Contact our firm for an initial consultation to discuss options for resolving disagreements with a contractor today.