Construction Litigation

As a general rule of thumb, it is largely inevitable that nearly every construction project will at some point in time experience certain problems of varying degrees and complexities. In many instances, these problems are merely so-called "bumps in the road" that are resolved between the parties without the necessity of judicial intervention. Sometimes, however, the issues between the parties may be of such great severity and consequence that the dispute risks derailing the project. Finger-pointing quickly turns into polarization, and results in the parties returning to their respective corners to square off for the fight. Before resorting to the courts, however, the contract at issue may require the parties to engage in alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. In the case of arbitration, a neutral third party presides over the dispute in a quasi-judicial like proceeding, and thereafter, renders a decision. Where the parties are not required to participate in ADR, or the process is waived or deemed unsuccessful, the stark reality is that certain disputes must be resolved through the filing of a lawsuit.

How does the process work in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation ("OCABR") regulates the registration of contractors performing improvements or renovations on residential properties. Prior to performing work on a residential structure, a contractor must be registered as a Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC") pursuant to M.G.L. c. 142A. Chapter 142A sets out the parameters for registration and empowers OCABR to administer the program. All persons, individuals, proprietorships, partnerships, or corporations who solicit, bid on, or perform residential contracting as a contractor or subcontractor on an existing one to four unit owner-occupied residential building must register. The Office of Consumer Affairs runs an arbitration program to resolve disputes between registered contractors and homeowners, and administers a Guaranty Fund for homeowners with unpaid judgments against registered contractors.

In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board ("the Board") regulates the registration of contractors performing improvements or renovations. The RI Contractors' Registration Law ("RICRL") requires that every contractor, remodeler, and most subcontractors who are in the business of building or repairing residential or commercial structures (excluding such notable tradesmen as plumbers, electricians, and pipefitters who are already licensed under a different state agency) and anyone who demolishes or moves a residential or commercial structure to register. Persons or businesses who furnish materials, supplies, equipment, etc. and who do not fabricate these supplies or materials in the work of a contractor do not have to register, however if registered they can use the boards dispute resolution process. It is important to note that the RICRL is not a licensing law; instead it is a law designed to register contractors so that claims filed against them can be heard and settled.

The RICRL does require that every registrant have minimum insurance coverage in the amount of five hundred thousand ($500,000.00) dollars combined single limit, bodily injury, and property damage. There are wide ranging penalties under the RICRL for violators. For example, contractors, remodelers, and subcontractors who do not have a valid registration certificate will not be able to bid on work or obtain a building permit in any of Rhode Island's 39 cities or towns. Before obtaining a building permit, contractors and remodelers will be required to submit their registration. Additionally, a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor who does not have a valid registration will not be able to file a lien, or file a law suit for compensation for work done on a structure. It is also a misdemeanor offense to not be registered in the State of Rhode Island without a proper registration card issued by the Board and violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000.00 for the first offense. The Board is vested with broad disciplinary powers The Board can refuse to issue or can suspend or revoke the registration of the contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor; additionally it can impose fines. Unlike Massachusetts, there is no fund to compensate a consumer who has been defrauded by a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor registered under the law. The Board does, however, criminally pursue compliance of final orders in district court with the attorney general.

D. Baker Law Group, P.C. represents parties on all sides of construction disputes, including property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, and material suppliers. We routinely advise and assist businesses and individuals throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of Rhode Island in drafting, negotiating, and litigating construction contracts. Attorney Baker is well versed in the law and has the foresight and experience to identify potential pitfalls before they unfold and / or advocate effectively and aggressively for the client once the dispute arises.

David M. Baker, Esq.- your Massachusets and Rhode Island Construction Law Attorney!

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