The unexpected can make life exciting, but it often makes building and construction projects more difficult.
Changing construction plans midway through can increase the time and resources needed to complete the project. A well-drafted contract created with help from an experienced construction attorney can help guard against unnecessary changes to your project.
That said, every project contract must be drafted with change in mind.
Some circumstances will make even the most carefully considered contracts unworkable. Change orders are the legal tools whereby your contract can be amended to reflect present realities and the contract’s overall purpose can be achieved.
Oral vs. Written Change Orders
The contractor or the customer can request a change order to the construction contract. Like any other contract, the mere request for a change order doesn’t automatically create new obligations. Generally speaking, only when a change order is proposed — and the parties accept it — does the order become binding.
Written Change Orders
Construction attorneys generally prefer that change orders be made in writing between the customer and the contractor or someone with authority to modify the original contract. This helps avoid confusion over any changes and how they impact the original contract.
For example, suppose that a homeowner is renovating their kitchen and wants the contractor to use a different material for the countertops than what was originally discussed. A written change order can not only specify the new material the homeowner wants but also:
- Any price difference in materials
- Additional work needed to accommodate the change order
- Delays in completing the change order and original contract
- Any other material term or condition
Bus. And Prof. Code Section 7159 allows for change orders to written construction contracts when there’s a new exchange of consideration. In this context, “consideration” means nothing more than one person giving up something or taking on a new obligation because of the contract.
Therefore, a written change order can become effective and enforceable if the contractor signs the agreement or purchases materials and supplies to complete the work. The homeowner may manifest consent to a change order by signing a copy of the order and making a deposit toward the anticipated costs.
Oral Change Orders
An oral change or agreement is much more difficult to prove, which helps explain why construction attorneys don’t recommend them. Without written documentation of the change order, its basic existence and specific material terms become challenging to prove.
Nonetheless, an oral change order may be enforceable if one party fully executes their side of the agreement.
For instance, a contractor who installs the new countertop material may then take the homeowner to court and attempt to prove that the change was made in accordance with an oral change order agreement. In the same way, a homeowner who deposits the agreed-upon amount could then demand that the contractor install the new countertop.
Even so, it’s the obligation of the person who fulfilled the terms of the agreement to show the court that the agreement existed in the first place.
How Can a California Construction Attorney Help Me?
A skilled construction attorney from Alves Radcliffe can assist you with all aspects of change orders.
Whether you need to draw up an order or you’re embroiled in a dispute over a breach, Alves Radcliffe is available to analyze your situation and help you get where you want to go. Contact us today at 916-333-3375 to schedule a consultation.