Spring is here and it’s that time of year when home owners want to change things around the house and consider getting some renovations carried out. A contractor is located, some plans are drawn up and things get started; unfortunately, sometimes what starts out as a positive project turns into a potential nightmare for both the homeowner and the contractor.
There is a wide spectrum as to how and why the problems have arisen; perhaps there were less than adequate plans prepared; perhaps the meeting leading up to starting the project did not culminate in a written agreement that covered all aspects; or perhaps there was an initial misunderstanding of what each party expected of the other….Notwithstanding the cause, both the homeowner and the contractor would like to see the problem(s) resolved without the necessity of a lawsuit, or if there is an ongoing lawsuit, often the reality of the length and expense of continuing on without a resolution is now understood by both parties to be unacceptable.
Not dealing with the problem(s) quickly can compound the issues, particularly if other work or workers are being held up; Costs can start to escalate even more and a negotiated resolution can be harder to reach. What can they do?
Voluntary Mediation can often be the right way to proceed. Mediation is a solution often overlooked, it is quicker, and is usually able to be arranged in short order. It is also cheaper and the process can be adapted to most if not all situations that arise. Further, as the process is confidential it can proceed without risking anyone’s right to proceed in a more litigious format if settlement is unsuccessful. The parties are in total control, it’s just that more often than not, a problem solver needs to be involved to help the parties get past the point they are at. Compromise is required by both participants.
Mediations are usually held with both parties and their legal counsel in attendance and this format, while desirable is, not always necessary. The process is designed to be less stressful than full blown litigation, with all sides meeting on neutral territory (the mediators boardroom) with the goal being to find common ground to continue on with the project or go separate ways on a basis that works for all.
Some mediators will only agree to be involved if each participant has legal counsel as clearly the mediator does not represent either party. Keep this in mind when choosing the right mediator for your situation. When it comes to papering the agreement, each party should be comfortable acting on their own, or that their lawyer approves of the wording.
Once the mediator has assisted with an early problem, he or she can be utilized on an ongoing basis, should new problems pop up during the construction process.