disputes subcontractor vs contractor

Ways to Avoid Disputes Between Contractors and Subcontractors

As the construction industry continues to expand in Daphne and across Alabama, healthy relationships between general contractors and subcontractors are more critical than ever. The number of new commercial developments and residential subdivisions in the area has steadily climbed in recent years. This growth fuels demand for the skills and services provided by the network of contractors and specialty trades operating in the region.

The high velocity of new projects also amplifies the potential for misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and full-blown disputes between parties. Clearly drafted contracts and vigilant project management are essential to preventing contention and keeping construction jobs on track.

When contract disputes do arise, they frequently stem from ambiguities in scopes of work, schedules, payment terms, and change management procedures. Proactively addressing these common pain points is key to fostering collaboration rather than disputes. This allows projects to proceed smoothly and contracting companies to preserve strong ties for future partnerships.

Understanding the Nature of Disputes

Disputes between contractors and subcontractors frequently arise from:

  • Unclear expectations in original contract terms
  • Scope changes and modifications during a project
  • Unexpected costs incurred by subcontractors
  • Project delays impacting schedules
  • Poor communication across teams

Without well-defined processes to address such issues, relatively small problems often spiral into major disputes that threaten:

  • Budgets
  • Schedules
  • Business relationships

The most common catalysts are discrepancies between work performed by the subcontractor and what was originally agreed upon in contracts.

The Importance of Clear Communication 

Open and frequent communication serves as the foundation for cooperation between project partners by:

  • Preventing avoidable misunderstandings
  • Enabling early identification of potential issues
  • Facilitating prompt solutions to problems

Effective strategies include:

  • Holding regular status update meetings
  • Proactively addressing RFIs and change orders
  • Maintaining detailed documentation of daily activities
  • Establishing mutual accountability for information sharing

Detailed Contracts: The Foundation of a Good Relationship

Subcontractor agreements should clearly outline:

  • Statement of work specifics
  • Milestone completion dates
  • Change order procedures
  • Payment terms and retainage policies
  • Insurance and bonding requirements
  • Dispute resolution tactics

Thoroughly detailing expectations upfront drives alignment and helps prevent requirement gaps leading to conflicts.

Investing in comprehensive contracts pays dividends by:

  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Allocating risk appropriately
  • Protecting stakeholder interests
  • Keeping focus on the project

Regular Meetings and Progress Updates

Holding regular meetings allows contractors and subcontractors to align on progress, identify obstacles, and resolve issues before they escalate. Weekly or biweekly check-ins provide a cadence for exchanging activity updates, reviewing schedules, discussing problems that arise, and mapping solutions. Maintaining a detailed timeline of milestones empowers collaboration by enabling early warning signs of delays.

If certain prerequisites fall behind, subs can consult with generals on recovering or revising downstream dates. Simply having open forums to compare notes, ask questions, and surface concerns fosters transparency. It also reduces the likelihood of surprises that lead to disputes.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Inevitably, some disagreements will emerge even between partners committed to cooperation. Including alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures in subcontracts establishes constructive pathways for settling conflicts without excessive costs or damage to relationships. Options such as mediation and arbitration aim to keep resolution within the project team rather than resorting to litigation.

An impartial mediator helps both sides communicate perspectives, prioritize shared goals, and craft compromises. Arbitration engages a subject matter expert to evaluate evidence and render a decision. In either case, ADR methods help facilitate reasonable outcomes faster and less expensively than going to court. They work best when included proactively in contracts before problems occur.

Understanding Each Other’s Roles and Responsibilities

A shared understanding of responsibilities, deliverables, priorities and timelines is essential. Before onsite work launches, project leaders should convene both internal team members and subcontractors to review roles, expectations, hand-offs between work streams, key milestones, and lines of communication.

Constructing an accountability chart that maps dependencies across stakeholders provides clarity. This exercise also builds rapport and trust between the parties cooperating on execution. Additionally, general contractors and subs should agree to respect the expertise each brings to the table and not overstep into directing specialties outside their purview.

Financial Transparency and Prompt Payments

The financial health of a construction project depends heavily on cash flow. Subcontractors rely on regular invoice payments to fund ongoing work and pay their suppliers and specialists. Untimely or inconsistent payments starve resources needed to push progress. Best practices include clear terms around billing, reasonable review periods, and prompt payment once deliverables are accepted. Wise contractors also recognize that financial transparency and reasonableness build trust with subs.

Dealing with Changes and Unforeseen Circumstances

Despite the best-laid plans, construction projects frequently encounter changes in schedules, scopes, requirements, or external conditions. Strategies for managing revisions and unanticipated developments include:

  • Implementing change order processes to thoroughly review, approve, and document modifications
  • Updating schedules promptly when predecessor activities shift
  • Extending reasonable grace periods for delays outside subcontractor control
  • Invoking acceleration plans to meet unmoved finish milestones
  • Renegotiating specific contract terms if conditions fundamentally change

Weathering unexpected events requires flexibility and cooperation from both generals and subcontractors. Maintaining cooperative mindsets focused on identifying solutions rather than assigning blame enables partners to adapt in alignment.

Contact Our Seasoned Daphne, AL Construction Law Attorneys

In the fast-moving construction industry, developing and nurturing positive contractor-subcontractor relationships is crucial for project success. Disputes can inflict substantial damage in the form of budget overruns, missed deadlines, strained partnerships, and more. However, adopting prudent prevention practices minimizes contentious situations.

For skilled guidance with construction law issues in Daphne and other southern Alabama communities, call Stone Crosby today at (251) 626-6696 or send us an online message. We are ready to go to work for you!