By Patrick Barthet

If your construction project runs into trouble, you might begin to see a minor disagreement turn into a more serious legal dispute. And in no time, the word “breach” could start to surface in the correspondence you’re receiving. When that happens, should you worry? Probably so.

Breach is a legal term used when one fails to honor a promise or to perform an agreed upon act, one that may be spelled out in a written or verbal agreement. Breach a contract and you will likely be sued to actually perform as obligated, or worse, for damages incurred. Not a good development.

Some of the more common claims raised in a breach of a construction contract are related to delay – a delay in performance, a delay in getting paid, a delay in delivering a project. Others stem from substandard or defective work, not following project plans, and of course, not honoring a warranty.

There may be defenses to these claims.  The contract may be invalid or unenforceable. That could be because either party did not actually agree to all the essential terms. Or because one party lacked capacity to enter into the agreement. Or maybe the contract was unconscionable or illegal – no one can agree to do something that actually violates the law. Other defenses may include mistake – did one or both parties misunderstand what they were agreeing to? Was one of the parties entering into the contract under duress? Has it become impossible to fulfill the obligations required under the contract?  Each of these can be an appropriate defense.

But an allegation of a breach is not something to be taken lightly.  See it and think twice about next steps. The legal system is not especially forgiving when a claim is ignored so best to consult a construction lawyer if you receive one of those breach letters.

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