If you get to work on a construction project that doesn't have even one change order, you more than likely count yourself lucky. Most jobs come with at least one, and they can end up being the bane of your existence.
Part of the issue may be that the parties failed to properly negotiate or document the change order. Another problem could stem from misinterpretations or misunderstandings. In order to help reduce the chances of ending up in court over a change order, you may want to delve deeper into the process.
What you can do
The first step is to thoroughly review the existing construction contract. More than likely, it contains conditions under which a change order may take place along with the contractual requirements. In order to feel more comfortable with the change order process, you may want to take the following additional steps:
- Check the contract for conflicting language. Any found will need addressing prior to beginning the change order process.
- Check the plans and specifications. Any omissions or errors could affect any further work done on the project since the current plans and specifications may not support the requested change.
- Communication is crucial. Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand the details surrounding the change order.
- Negotiate the details of the change order. This can be a delicate process, especially when discussing the additional costs.
- Make sure you document the process. You may not think something is important until a dispute arises, so the more you document what goes on, the better off you may be.
- Once the change order is complete, you should start on it right away. Delays often result in disputes.
Following these tips could make the process of discussing, documenting and implementing a change order less stressful and tricky. As long as you work in the construction business, you will deal with change orders. Perhaps this won't happen on every job, but certainly on many of them. Setting procedures in place now could make your life easier in the end.
Even so, no one can guarantee that you will avoid disputes regarding a change order and everything connected to it. If that happens, you would benefit from gaining an understanding of your rights, responsibilities and legal options. You may hope that the matter can be resolved without litigation, and that could happen. However, you may need to prepare yourself for the possibility that you could end up in court, and that preparation begins with the change order itself.