Navigating Construction Disputes in Pennsylvania

Construction disputes are fairly common in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Most can be resolved without going to court through a process called arbitration. The goal is to resolve the issue privately without litigation.

How Construction Disagreements Progress

Disputes arising during construction are some of the more common types of business disputes. They can happen due to disagreements between contractors, property owners or other stakeholders, such as building designers, subcontractors, and suppliers.

The most common construction disputes involve:

  • Construction delays
  • Quality or type of materials
  • Project design
  • Quality of work

If there’s a dispute, there are several possible courses of action. The first would be negotiation. When that doesn’t work, then mediation or arbitration should be considered. Barring any of these options, there’s little other choice than filing a lawsuit.

Resolving Disputes Without Going to Court

Unless the offense is particularly egregious, such as injury or fraud, then construction litigation should be a last resort. One of the more common remedies in a construction dispute is arbitration.

Although both processes involve taking a dispute to a neutral third party for resolution, arbitration differs from mediation in several key ways. With mediation, the clients control the process and determine the outcome with guidance from the mediator. However, the conclusions reached in mediation are only legally binding if the parties reach and sign a settlement agreement. Either side can halt the process at any time before signing the settlement.

With arbitration, the arbitrator controls the process and the outcome. The results are also legally binding. Unlike litigation in court, the outcome of an arbitration cannot be appealed.

How to Avoid Construction Disputes

The best way to handle construction disputes is to avoid them in the first place. This can be accomplished first of all through clear communication between the parties. All terms should be spelled out n clear, concise language and written down on paper and/or electronic media.

Contractors should let the client know exactly what is covered in the contract, when and how the work will be accomplished, the payment terms, and any remedies if they cannot deliver as promised. Any work that involves an extra fee or extension of the completion date should also be included.

For example, if the new roof doesn’t include gutters, that should be clearly stated in the contract. All parties should also negotiate and agree to any changes in the contract.

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