CONSTRUCTION LAW AND DISPUTES

We have extensive experience in construction law and litigation including:

  • Representing Homeowners and Contractors in Construction and Contract Disputes;
  • Drafting and Enforcing Construction Contracts and Liens;
  • Familiarity with Roofing Disputes, Water Intrusion and Claims arising from Volatile Organic Compounds ("VOC's") found in many construction materials.

ESSENTIAL TERMS FOR YOUR CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT By Gregg Paley

Whether you’re constructing a new house, renovating an existing home or building out commercial space for your business, having the right language in your construction contract helps avoid disputes and makes all the difference in a lawsuit if the job goes sour.

The most common complaint from both our residential and commercial clients is that the job took much longer than initially projected. Construction delays are not only inconvenient but often lead to unnecessary expenses such as temporary housing expenses, increased insurance premiums and business interruption costs that can lead to reduced revenue and client loss if they can’t access your company’s location.

So, what can you do to ensure that your work is done right and on time? First and most importantly – if you’re in Florida get the heck out because you have no shot at getting anything done on time and very little chance of anything working if it does finish! Expect excuses like we need more time because an alligator ate your blueprints, the floor is uneven because the earth rotates unevenly and the windows leak due to a vast government conspiracy that must remain confidential to protect the safety of the witnesses.

If leaving Florida is not a good option, there are a few more practical solutions to consider. For example, one of the most effective ways to motivate an otherwise unmotivated contractor is including a “Penalty for Delay” clause in the contract. By adding a penalty of $100.00 - $1,000.00 for every day beyond the scheduled completion date, you can be sure that finishing your job will be a top priority for the construction company.

Another helpful provision to include in the contract involves linking the percentage of work completed with the percentage of payment made by the owner so that the contractor only gets paid for work that’s been done. As a result, there’s once again motivation to keep your job moving forward while making the other owners who weren’t lucky enough to read this article wait in line!

Additional important considerations include:

·       A provision that requires the losing party in any disputes to pay for the attorney’s fees and costs of the prevailing party;

·       A waiver of the Florida Statute §558 requirements which allows contractors to have an extensive amount of time to repair defective work before a lawsuit is filed;

·       A process to ensure that all subcontractors and workers are paid by the general contractor to avoid lien claims on the property;

·       A provision which lets owners retain final payment and both create a final punch list of incomplete items and have sole discretion to approve completion before final payment is due;

·       A clear itemization of the time frame and costs for all permits and inspections as well as assurances that the contractor is responsible for promptly resolving permit denials and that any permit related delays won’t affect the penalty for delay clause.

Of course, an experienced contract and construction attorney is in the best position to prepare an effective contract for you and will also be a valuable ally if the spam hits the fan. Gregg Paley at Colson & Paley, LLC has a vast amount of experience drafting contracts and an equally strong track as a litigator if necessary and can represent you in any size or complexity of construction matter.

PREPARING INSURANCE CLAIMS FOR HURRICANE RELATED DAMAGE

How to get better and faster results from your insurance company.

By: Gregg Paley, Esq.

If you thought hurricane Irma was bad, wait for the fun you’ll have trying to get reimbursement from your insurance company for storm related damages. With the entire state of Florida impacted by Irma which followed on the heels of the catastrophic flooding from hurricane Harvey in Texas, insurance companies will be overwhelmed by the size and number of claims for assistance. As a result, reimbursement for your damages may take months if not years to resolve unless you follow the basic steps outlined below.

I’ve had many years of legal experience on both sides of the fence defending insurance companies and handling a variety of different lawsuits against them. In nearly all of these cases, the most successful claims have been well-organized, thoroughly documented and presented with a firm approach so your claim is taken seriously. Despite the constant barrage of positive advertising, most insurance companies are not your friends and their “good hands” are reaching for your wallet to help shareholders so don’t be fooled.

GETTING ORGANIZED

The first step is figuring out which insurance company covers the damage to your home or business and the amount of your deductible for that policy. Although some companies cover all hurricane related damage, many others separate wind and water damage with your primary homeowner’s insurance handling wind and a secondary policy covering water and flood. In fact, you may need to submit two separate claims for wind and water damage depending on the scope of each policy and the nature of the damage itself.

Once you’ve decided which policy covers the damage, the next step is getting a claims form from the company or companies which should be available online at their main website.  With your claim form in hand and a hardy spirit, you’re ready for the main part of your project which is gathering documentation to support your case.

 DOCUMENTATION TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM

Submitting a strongly documented claims package is the single most important thing you can do to help achieve a positive outcome. You’ll make it easier for the claims adjuster to review your materials and send a message that you’re serious about getting full reimbursement for your damages. If you’ve had different parts of your home or business impacted, prepare an individual package with pictures and supporting documents for each repair item.

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words and this situation is a perfect example. Take multiple pictures from different angles and select the ones that best convey the full scope of the damage and be sure to use a format that lets you print the photos and save them to your computer for future use if necessary. Pictures of the impacted areas before the storm will also be very helpful but aren’t required if you don’t have them.

The second part of your package involves getting 2 or 3 repair estimates from reputable contractors in your area. This is a critical step that’s often overlooked that adds credibility to your claim and prevents the insurance company from exercising too much control over important repair decisions affecting your property. Because your repair costs must exceed the deductible amount under the policy, the insurer hopes to find that your damages do not meet the deductible threshold. Without your own estimates, there’s nothing to fight back with so do your homework early to avoid problems later.

What this means is that it’s your job to find out what it will actually cost to repair the damage to your property and to find a company that will do the job right. Keep in mind that local contractor fees may be 25% or more higher than pre-storm rates and try to find companies that friends and relatives have used in the past or have good reviews on local referral sites like Yelp or Google Business. Once you’ve selected a company to do the work, take a look at our prior post on Negotiating Effective Construction Contracts. 

The last step in completing your claims package is preparing a well-written cover letter summarizing each repair item and referencing the pictures and estimates for each subject. Conclude the letter by requesting immediate confirmation of their receipt of the package together with the claim number, name of the individual adjuster assigned to your file and specific list of any additional items they may need before reviewing your claim.

BE FIRM AND PERSISTENT

One week after submitting your package and finding out who your claims adjuster is – or at least the claim number – call to find out the status of your submission. Until you get a satisfactory response, you’ll need to call and email every day without being rude but definitely being firm and persistent. Remember, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” and this is no exception with the volume of claims the insurance companies are currently dealing with. After a few days of calls and emails you’ll likely get the adjuster’s attention and move your file to the top of the pile.

When you do get a response about the amount they’re willing to pay for your repairs, don’t settle for less than you’re entitled to. If you’re not satisfied, refer back to your repair estimates and ask for copies of the documents they’re relying on to come up with something less than your estimates. If that doesn’t work it may be time to bring in the hired guns or at least call our offices and ask for GREGG PALEY at COLSON & PALEY, LLC. Do not rely on public adjusters - Many have inappropriate relationships with contractors which may result in higher prices and fees and less willingness by the insurance company to cover your costs. GOOD LUCK!