Construction Law Blog

So What Is an Improvement, Anyhow?

 

Under New York construction law, much emphasis is placed on the “improvement” of real property (real estate). Indeed reference to improvements are often found in New York construction contracts, and establishing an improvement is required for a contractor to establish a valid lien on a privately owned project. But what specifically are the ins and outs?

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Punitive Damages Claims in New York Construction Contract Disputes

 

One topic that came up in my practice recently was a contractor’s potential exposure to liability for punitive damages under New York law. As the name suggests, punitive damages are awarded above and beyond their contract or property damages, ‘where the wrong done was aggravated by circumstances of violence, oppression, malice, fraud, … on the part of the defendant, and are intended to address the plaintiff’s mental anguish or other aggravation, to punish the defendant for its behavior.’ Black’s Law Dictionary 390 (6th Ed. 1991).

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Understanding the Importance of Building Permits

What are building permits?

What do you need a building permit for? This is one of the most common questions regarding construction. Building permits are both important and necessary and the failure to obtain one can cause major obstacles down the road.  Building permits are needed whenever a homeowner is altering or expanding their current home, installing a swimming pool, deck, shed or more.  Building permits are more important than you think, and here’s why!

 

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Changes vs. Cardinal Changes: The Limit of Construction Contract Changes

 

Changes are an unavoidable aspect of construction. Although thorough effort and coordination are required in preparing the original project contract, specifications and construction drawings, there will still be changes. This is why owners are provided the right to make changes to the work under a typical contract changes clause.

However, the ability for owner requested changes, even if provided in the contract, are not without limitations, restrictions, and consequences. After all, what purpose would any of the project documents, contracts and drawings serve if they were subject to constant change? What good would the contract serve if the owner could make any change(s) without consequence?

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The Importance of Cleaning Construction Waste

 

Everybody loves an exciting renovation project. Whether it’s finishing floors, replacing drywall, or even as simple as painting the walls. When it comes to such projects, there will be debris left behind. Construction waste is any “trash” on a job site from leftover materials. Some of these materials could contain harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, asbestos and even live wires and sharp, dangerous objects. Discarding and eliminating leftover construction waste properly is extremely important for your safety, and even the surrounding environment. Construction waste comes in many different forms. The most common forms are listed below.

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Is Residential Solar Energy Really Worth It?

residential solar energy panel

As of 2016, there have been over 1.3 million solar panels installed on over 6,560,000 households in the United States. Arizona is the largest state utilizing residential solar energy. If solar energy seems to be so popular, why aren’t we all contributing to the environment? Just like any other construction job, solar panels and their installs have both pros and cons. These pros and cons can stretch from high costs to home damages, to even insurance premium increases. Whether you are a veteran homeowner or a first time home owner, is it really worth it to utilize residential solar energy?

Listed below are the top four pros of applying solar panels to your home.

  1. Reduces electric bills: The average American saves around $100 – $120 a month while using solar energy.
  2. Increase the value of your home: Whether solar panels on your home have been purchased or leased, having solar energy can increase the value from $18,000 – $29,000.
  3. A beautiful future: Residential Solar Energy helps improve the environment and reduce carbon emissions.
  4. Tax and State Credits: Depending on where you live in the United States, you could easily receive a federal tax credit of 30% and a state tax credit of 25%. For New York State, your state credit would be 25%.

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Construction Warranties in New York. Sometimes Less is More.

Any property owner considering construction work will want reassurance that the work will be done well, and will be free of defects for a specified time frame. Many contractors even include a warranty clause in their contract. Such warranties (also called guarantees) require the contractor to correct any defects through additional work on the project over the specified time. What are some of the specific factors within Construction Warranties?

Warranties under New York law may be found where they are expressly given, as in the example of the contractor above; but may also be implied through the conduct of the parties, or by operation of the law. For example, if the contractor agreement did not contain any warranty clause, the owner would be able to bring a legal action against the contractor for breach of warranty or contract within six years of project substantial completion under the New York Uniform Commercial Code. Many property owners may be surprised to learn that they may actually be better protected with no warranty provision in the agreement, over one that states coverage for a shorter time frame.

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Top 5 Tips for New York Residential Contractors

Often times in discussions with contractors, I hear many of the same types of issues repeat themselves, and from the perspective of counsel, quite preventable. While not every potential problem on a project can be determined upfront, keeping the following 5 tips for contractors in mind might be helpful in preventing problems, improving business practices, and effectively managing risks.

  1. Be proactive throughout the project. You know that your work is good, and you expect your project owner to be pleased, but some owners may be difficult or unreasonable to please. Sometimes complaints as to work in the trailing end of a project can also be made as a pretext to avoid making full payment. For that reason, don’t wait for problems to arise. You should document the quality, completeness, and progression of your work as you are working on the project. I have seen projects where contractors were no longer allowed access to the project, and obtaining access to document completeness of work can be difficult once a problem arises.

At a minimum, you should be photographing conditions of all areas of the site within the scope of your work to show (1) existing conditions at the time you begin work, (2) inspection phases, (3) substantial completion, and (4) final completion.

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5 Reasons to Consider Arbitration for Your Construction Dispute

 

In a recent client conference, I was asked, “So what is arbitration, anyhow?” In the context of a construction claim or in seeking to prevent such a claim, there are several significant advantages that arbitration can provide in lieu of litigation. In today’s challenging business environment, this signifies awareness of the various options available that could make an important impact on your business’ circumstance.

Briefly stated, arbitration is a private, informal process by which all parties agree, in writing, to submit their dispute to one or more impartial persons authorized to resolve the controversy by rendering a final and binding award.[i] What makes this process unique is the ability, with some advance consideration, to customize and tailor the dispute resolution process to suit the needs of the company.

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Is It Worth It To Elevate Your Home?

Elevate your home
 

One of the most common causes of home elevation is extreme weathering and flooding. In general, there are two options when deciding to elevate your home. The homeowner can physically lift the home, building a new foundation at the bottom, or leaving the home as is, but just building a “livable space” upper level, alternatively converting the ground level to a complete closure.

There are several cons when elevating a home. From cost, insurance claims, geographic complications, damage to the home/property, and even finding a suitable contractor to get the job done.

The average cost to elevate a home is between $30,000 – $145,000 USD. Hypothetical thinking, in a time of crisis, every homeowner has said to themselves, “What does our flood insurance even cover?”. Common essentials covered by flood insurance are your average systems, such as heating, air, water, furnaces, plumbing and more. Flood insurance also covers appliances, flooring, furniture, personal property, and certain valuables, up to the policy limits. Some examples of non covered essentials include personal property in a basement, mold and mildew damage, outdoor property, temporary housing if needed to evacuate, and more. Flood insurance also does not cover home elevations, and only certain homeowners insurance policies will participate. As you can see, if you do not have the proper coverage to elevate your home, this can be very costly. Luckily, the “New York Rising Community Reconstructive Program” helps victims of catastrophic weathering with industry contacts, and financial assistance. Depending on which state you live in, your local county may have similar assistance programs.

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