Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 10, 2011

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Most homeowners contract with builders to complete the project in a certain amount of time, but one of the most common disputes between builders and homeowners involves delays in construction. Thankfully, there are some simple measures that can be added to a construction contract to protect both you and the builder if construction delays occur.

Reasonable Delays and Construction Contracts

Whether it’s a defective pipe that has burst into the foundation and requires replacing or a boulder discovered under where the swimming pool was planned to go, unforeseen delays happen in building projects. In order to avoid isolating your builder and to prevent him from being too concerned with the bottom line, it is imperative to include an exception in the construction contract for reasonable delays.

In the construction contract, the provision can simply read: “The builder herein agrees to have substantially completed the work for this project by (give a reasonable date). Substantial completion is defined as completion of more than 75 percent of the building. Extensions may be granted at the owner’s discretion for unforeseen delays.” Including this provision in the construction contract ensures that the builder will contact you with information about delays and give you the final say as to whether or not it warrants and extension.

It is also important to be realistic if the delay is caused by a change you requested that is not included in the original construction contract. For instance, if you decide that you wish to change the building plan halfway into the project, be prepared for an addition to be tagged onto the construction contract granting the necessary time extension.

Unreasonable Delays and Construction Contracts

Sometimes builders make mistakes that will cost you money. For instance, a new builder improperly compacts the substrate resulting in a visible crack in the foundation that requires the foundation to be redone. This is clearly a mistake on the part of the builder that should not come out of your bottom line. In cases
where the delays are the fault of the builder, you do have the right to charge the builder for your damages. A provision in the construction contract for this type of delay should state: “Any delays that are caused from the negligence of the builder are not considered reasonable delays. Should an extension be required for negligent delays, the cost of the delay will be subtracted from the final cost of the project and payment will be withheld until the project is completed.” This provision in the construction contract makes it clear to the builder that they will be paid in full unless they do something careless while on the job.

Getting Help

Construction law is a very complex area of the law and the construction contract’s phrasing will differ from state to state. To make certain that your contract is in compliance with your state’s builder laws, it’s best to consult a construction attorney in your area.