Contractors and subcontractors frequently consult with their attorneys in the negotiation of construction contracts before they are signed, but counsel’s involvement generally ends at that point until and unless litigation arises down the road. Nevertheless, additional consultation with attorneys after execution of contracts can ensure that contractors and subcontractors meet their respective obligations and may confer savings that far offset the costs.
Construction contracts require contractors and subcontractors to carry commercial general liability, or CGL, insurance and to name not only the contracting parties but additional third parties, such as project owners, as additional insured. Recent commercial general liability litigation, however, suggests that contractors and subcontractors should review the language of their CGL policies carefully because third parties to the contract, even if they are contractually required to be additionally insured, may actually be excluded by the insurance policies.
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.
- 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.
Can homeowners be held responsible for injuries that may occur to contractors while work is being done on their property? Many homeowners love new home face-lifts, but did they ever think what a dangerous home improvement job consisted of? Well, what happens if a contractor is injured while working? Who is responsible for their medical costs?
With respect to homeowner liability for contractor injuries in New York, homeowners of one or two family dwellings are exempt from liability from any contractor injuries suffered while work was performed on their property under labor law § 240 & § 241, unless he or she has directed or controlled the work being performed.
Under New York State Law §§ 240 and 241 a homeowner can be found liable for any resulting contractor injuries only if their contractor can show the homeowner provided specific instruction as to how work is to be performed or the homeowner provided certain tools or equipment to be used.
Although, incidental homeowner interactions are not sufficient to invoke homeowner liability for injuries, a showing of directing the actual work performance is necessary.
Owners of New York based construction businesses are more likely to be mindful of construction law issues relating to contract performance and defective work. Many however are unaware they are also under increasing risks of liability in compliance with newly enacted requirements under New York Employment and Labor Laws.
If you have read previous articles of this blog, you may be aware that New York construction contractors can be barred from suing or enforcing a mechanic’s lien if they do not possess required home improvement licenses, which has resulted in the dismissal of many contractors’ claims. On the other hand, project owners sometimes argue that a contractor’s failure to possess a license should not only prevent the contractor from recovering more money but should require the contractor to return all monies already paid for the work. Courts’ responses to this argument have been mixed.
Construction in particular adapts and responds to changes as a regular course of business. From changes in codes, regulations, and client preferences, staying abreast of the trends influencing the industry is essential for those who hope to earn their living from it.
Networking has always been an important function to anyone running a business.
Many construction contracts in New York make reference to how or why one or both parties are provided the right to terminate the agreement. One such typical form of termination, ‘Termination for Convenience’, may be provided.
The following article has been written by guest blogger Danielle Rodabaugh, who has outlined an informative examination of bonding principles in New York construction.
Although surety bonds have been used to regulate New York’s construction industry for decades, many contractors still have a limited understanding of their purpose.