Originally published in Construction EXECUTIVE July 2012.
Contractors can minimize the potential for disputes by insisting on written contracts that clearly, accurately and specifically define the scope of work. The most common construction dispute is whether something the owner wants is part of the original scope or an “extra” that requires a change order. Hastily prepared drawings, confusing specifications and incomplete definitions of the contractor’s scope usually assure the owner’s and contractor’s expectations for the project will differ, resulting in disputes.
It is tempting to take shortcuts when drafting contract documents. The parties are anxious to get the work started, and precisely defining the scope of work can be tedious. At the beginning of a new project, before signing a contract, the owner and contractor usually still have some flexibility to obtain additional funds, negotiate a competitive price from a subcontractor or supplier to meet a specialized requirement, or walk away from a project that cannot be built successfully within the owner’s budget. This is the best time to tackle any difficult issues that may arise out of establishing, in writing, exactly what the owner wants the contractor to build.
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