Construction Disputes


Please read our frequently downloaded E-book on “Homeowners vs Contractors: Construction Law 101
Our office has successfully handled all types of complex construction disputes, including but not limited to, defective work, failure to pay, delays, and mechanics liens. It’s rare for a construction project to proceed to completion without encountering problems. Below are the most common types of contract construction disputes and their legal implications. No matter the case, our Construction Lawyers represent all parties to ensure construction projects are fair and completed per the terms of the contracts in place. We understand the importance of these cases for all sides, and offer extensive experience and sophisticated counsel to come to a swift and just resolution.

Our firm has a noted expertise in such disputes, whether you are a homeowner or a Class A, B or C contractor, or a sub-contractor. Please read our article on clauses Virginia Contractors must have in their residential consumer contracts to comply with the minimum standards established by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (“DPOR”) in 18 VAC 50-22-260.

Delayed Performance.
Typically, both parties to a construction contract are required to perform in a timely manner.

  • Property owners are typically required to timely obtain permits, provide the work space, select materials, respond to questions about the design, approve or reject additional work requests, and review and pay payment applications.
  • Contractors and subcontractors are typically required to timely submit a project schedule, pre-order materials, retain subcontractors and material suppliers, provide lien waivers and releases, and deliver the work within the agreed time.

If either party does not perform timely, then the issue becomes what the contract language states, and which party was justified in suspending performance per the contract.

Defective Work.
Contractors are expected to perform their work in a workmanlike manner and in accordance with the plans and specifications for the project. When a contractor’s work is defective, the property owner may:

  • Demand that the defective work be corrected;
  • Terminate the contract and retain a replacement contractor to correct the work;
  • Seek money damages for the cost to correct the work and for other consequential damages like delays, lost rents, damage to other property.

A contractor’s commercial general liability policy will typically cover consequential damage caused by the defective work, e.g., damage to other work, but will not cover the cost to replace the actual defective work.

Failure to Pay and Right to Withhold Payment.
Property owners and contractors have an obligation to timely pay their contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers. Under certain circumstances, the contractor may have been deemed to have abandon the project by either leaving the project site or by failing to employ a sufficient quality and quantity of workmen Bd. of Supervisors v. Ecology One, Inc., 219 Va. 29, 245 S.E.2d 425 (1978).

Change Orders and Extra Work.
So many disputes arise over change orders, or the lack thereof. Most contracts contain a provision on how the parties are to handle changed or additional work; however, they are rarely followed by either party. A well drafted provision will require the parties to execute a change order that describes the change, the increase or decrease to the contract price, and whether the contractor will receive additional time.


A property owner may have several legal theories of recovery available for recovery of any damages sustained by the property owner.

  • Breach of contract
  • Negligence (personal injury or property damages, not purely economic losses). Blake Constr. Co. v. Alley, 233 Va. 31, 353 S.E.2d 724 (1987)
  • Breach of Warranty, including the implied warranty on new homes (Va. Code § 55-70.1)
  • Misrepresentation and fraud
  • In the event that the Contractor has filed a Mechanics Lien, then the Home owner may want to move to invalidate the lien in circuit court if it fails to comply with the statutory requirements under the Virginia Code

Generally, the measure of damages for breach of a builder contract is cost of repair. Delay damages may also be recoverable depending on the nature of the contract, and whether it has a liquidated damages provision. Some of the actual damages that may be recoverable due to a delay include:

  • Higher costs of materials or equipment necessitated by the breach
  • Additional fees and costs paid to construction engineers, architects etc.
  • Costs of extended construction financing due to the breach – that is, loan interest payments
  • Lost profits
  • Loss related to any warranty coverage

Our attorneys are trusted to secure the results when the stakes are high For construction cases, much time and money have been invested in a property, which is why we carefully and thoroughly investigate every case to build a strong argument on your behalf. Learn more about our notable case successes. Call our office in Fairfax at 703-652-5506 to schedule an initial consultation with our skilled trial lawyers.

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