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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

How to Avoid Construction Disputes

(guest post courtesy of Michelle Stansbury)

Almost every contractor has experienced miscommunication on the job site. Even when projects are approved and carefully scheduled, misinterpretation or misunderstanding between stakeholders can eventually lead to disputes.

Neither contractors nor customers want to delay deadlines or go over budget, but sometimes unforeseen issues cause necessary changes in scope. Luckily, focusing on clear, consistent documentation and open communication helps both prevent disputes and resolve any problems that do arise quickly and fairly.

What is a dispute?

A dispute is a disagreement between two or more parties involved in a contract that must be resolved or renegotiated. In construction and remodeling, disputes are typically a result of communication errors.

Homeowners may be dissatisfied with changes to schedule or budget that contractors failed to accurately predict. While occasionally these adjustments are made due to construction errors, often contractors are not at fault. Under-staffing, supply chain interruptions, extreme weather, and other unpredictable challenges frequently result in scope changes. But, if contractors cannot prove they’ve made every effort to complete work on time and within budget, they may not be able to favorably resolve disputes.

On the other side, homeowners sometimes approve designs based on misunderstanding. They may misinterpret how material and labor costs will add up or what work will be completed during each phase of a project. Contracts and designs should be carefully reviewed, and homeowners should be prepared to ask questions.

How can contractors prevent disputes?

The first step to avoiding disputes is clearly documenting day-to-day work on each project. It is the contractor’s responsibility to track progress and keep customers informed and engaged.

Detailed documentation

Detailed daily reporting from the job site protects contractors in several ways. Internally, project managers can review work as it’s completed each day and ensure the job stays on schedule. They can catch any potential issues early and resolve them before they develop into costly and time-consuming delays. When they are planning future bids, contractors can also review historical data from previous jobs to plan more accurate budgets and schedules.

Collecting clear, consistent documentation helps mitigate the risk of disputes because it provides contractors with a reliable record of productivity. During an ongoing project, daily reports are proof of what’s happening onsite. And when a job is in the planning phase, they are an excellent tool for accurately assessing your team’s capabilities.

Clear communication

The second step for preventing disputes is to consistently and proactively share documentation with customers. Keeping homeowners in the loop builds trust and helps them understand all the work that’s going into a project as well as any challenges. When they are informed and engaged, homeowners will quickly realize if there has been a misunderstanding.

Contractors can help customers interpret job-site progress by providing documentation that is clear and easy to understand. For example, photos and videos are an excellent way to communicate progress and potential issues without details getting lost in translation.

Offer a chance for homeowners to ask questions and provide timely, accurate responses.

How can homeowners help?

Homeowners can prevent disputes by carefully reviewing documentation and making sure to get clarification when needed. They can set clear expectations by confirming details of a design plan or deadlines as they understand them.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. By actively engaging with contractors, customers will demonstrate that they want to be an active participant in the remodeling process.

Fast, accurate digital documentation

Implementing a streamlined digital construction management tool helps contractors improve documentation and communication. Digital reports are faster and more accurate than pen and paper.

Digital reporting and documentation keeps projects on track and helps contractors communicate more efficiently with both internal teams and their customers

Raken’s easy-to-use project management app offers a wide range of capabilities, including: daily reporting, time tracking, photo and video documentation, and report automation. Raken makes it simple to track progress and share real-time insights instantly through the cloud in a clear, professional PDF format. With all historical data stored in a single location, Raken also helps contractors resolve disputes that do occur quickly, because specific documents are easily searched and found.

Communication is key

Disputes may seem unavoidable, but with open communication, most misunderstandings can be amicably resolved. When contractors use digital tools to streamline reporting and present information in an easy-to-understand format, homeowners can feel comfortable and confident they’ve chosen the best team for the job.

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