When you put your construction project into the hands of a contractor, you expect them to carry out your vision. Unfortunately, the reality of construction does not always fit the initial vision for the project. For this reason, change orders are powerful tools for both contractors and homeowners.

A change order adjusts the scope of a contractor’s work to better fit the needs of the project. This could mean adjustments to the project’s timeline or changes to the final product. Change orders can become contentious quickly when the parties disagree on the nature of the changes.

Disagreements can lead to litigation

The customer’s request violates the Cardinal Change Doctrine. According to the American Bar Association, the Cardinal Change Doctrine protects contractors from changes that drastically alter the scope of the work. For instance, if a customer hires a contractor to build a house, they cannot file a construction change directive asking the contractor to build an office building instead.

The customer disagrees with the bill increase(s). Occasionally, a contractor will put in extra work on a project that the customer did not agree to in writing. More work means more compensation for the contractor, and a customer may flinch at the unexpected changes to their bill.

The customer or contractor disagrees with the adjusted timeline. For one reason or another, the customer may try to move up the deadline of the project. Maybe the customer wants to save money by limiting the time spent on construction or wants to move in ahead of schedule. The contractor may dispute the rush request because it creates unrealistic expectations for the work.

On the other hand, a contractor could end up requesting a deadline extension if they found the customer’s deadline unrealistic.

Avoiding change order disputes

According to the American Bar Association, a well-prepared construction agreement can account for the flexible nature of construction projects through “changes in the work” clauses. These clauses lay out procedures for expanding or narrowing the scope of a project and how the bill might reflect those changes. Reviewing contracts with a professional who is well-versed in construction agreements and business transactions can help prevent potential conflicts before they arise.