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Florida Construction Law Blog

Could your disposal of hazardous waste be illegal?

If your Fort Lauderdale construction company runs afoul of federal laws regarding disposal of hazardous waste, it can cost you plenty of money in fines and penalties.

The agency that deals with the disposal of hazardous waste is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the construction industry, a common hazard that requires special handling and disposal is asbestos. While asbestos has not been used in new builds for many decades, developers often encounter it when a project involves a tear-down in order to clear the space for its eventual construction use.

Would you recognize fraud in your construction company?

One survey done a few years ago by Kroll's Global Fraud Report indicated that fraud occurs in 78 percent of construction companies. The construction industry also comes in at second place for the highest incidences of physical assets being stolen — 36 percent.

It's far easier to prevent fraud in the construction industry than to try to recoup the losses from it. Below are some common ways fraud could affect your construction firm.

Can this partnership dispute be avoided?

There is no doubt that construction is a hands-on business. If you are a contractor, you are used to striding around a job site wearing a hard hat and a pair of steel-toed boots. Climbing a ladder to inspect a third-story roof is second nature to you. Your idea of hell is sitting behind a desk in some office.

But a common problem for some contractors is the inherent personality differences they have with their business partners. Make no mistake — partnering with someone who has a different but equally as important skill set than you is the basis of many a successful partnership. Disputes arise when expectations, strategies and managerial philosophies diverge too far from what each partner believes is best.

Does your contract allow too much wiggle room?

Business negotiations are both an art and a skill. For those in the real estate development and/or construction industries, profits can rise or fall dependent upon the terms of a contract.

The best contracts are air-tight and clearly delineate the separate parties' responsibilities. But some contracts have as many holes in them as a slice of Swiss cheese. When you are dealing with a shady or unethical business counterpart, you may inadvertently stumble into the trap of the default tactic.

Should you file a mechanic's lien?

If you are a supplier or subcontractor working under a shady contractor and the contractor fails to pay you for goods or services, you may be faced with filing a mechanic's lien against the homeowner's property.

It can seem very unfair to the property owner to be faced with paying for an item or labor twice. However, you have little other recourse available to you in these type of disagreements.

Ooops! Whose insurance covers construction mistakes?

If you are a contractor, you know that even the best intentions can lead to mistakes, and sometimes they can be quite costly to repair. In these scenarios, whose insurance picks up the tab — yours or the homeowner's?

In all likelihood, it will be the contractor's liability insurance that is tapped first to repair any damages. This is why it is imperative for contractors to carry adequate insurance coverage to avoid being named a defendant in a civil suit.

Common construction defects

Construction defects can range from issues in the design, planning, furnishing and even inspection of a project. In general, if the builder fails to construct a building or home that meets the needs of the buyer, then there is a construction defect. If litigation results, then the court will most likely place the defects into one of four categories: design deficiencies, material deficiencies, construction deficiencies and subsurface deficiencies.

As a construction contractor, you may find yourself in a position where you have to fight back against a construction defect claim. However, knowing about the most common kinds of construction defects can help you avoid them.

What about clients who want more than the contract specifies?

Sooner or later, every builder or contractor encounter clients who want to play fast and loose with the agreed-upon contracted work. They may ask to add features to completed plans or decide to alter the dimensions of a couple of rooms.

While most contractors and builders try to accommodate their clients whenever possible, when the proposed changes cut into a company's bottom line, it's a good idea to have a response that can nip this sort of thing in the bud quickly.

How can contractors and builders make mistakes right?

No matter how conscientious a builder or contractor may be, everyone makes mistakes. But your reputation is on the line, so your response must be both timely and adequate to avoid losing business. How can you keep a mistake from turning into a deal-breaker?

One business coach and small business owner advises clients to respond with integrity and honesty, saying that "[t]he problem is rarely the error itself — it's how you handle it."

Are contractors and builders liable for home damages?

People invest more in their homes than they typically do in most other areas of their lives. Therefore, when something goes awry, they are especially determined to make sure that someone is held accountable.

That person can often be the contractor or builder, and many can face litigation in the Florida civil court systems as a result of disgruntled homeowners who are seeking redress for their losses and damages.

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