Construction Lawyers Give Contractors Hurricane Advice

Just how hurricane-proof is your construction business? We asked three of the top construction lawyers in the Gulf Coast to share advice for contractors to protect their projects — and payments — during hurricane season. These experienced attorneys share actions they recommend contractors take before, during, and after a storm to minimize nature’s impact on their construction business.

Prepare for the worst

“Be careful,” says Aaron Cartwright, a construction attorney from Arlington, Texas. “This is the time when the worst elements of people come out.

“Tools will be stolen, trucks will be stolen, materials will be stolen,” Aaron says. “Con artists will be out in force giving good, hardworking contractors a bad name.

“Supply chains are going to be out of sync so delivery times for everything are going to be delayed,” Aaron continued. “Make sure your insurances are up to date, your equipment is protected, and you inform your clients of potential delays in supplies.”

Oh, and one last thing: Be honest. “Do not take deposits for which you will not be able to perform work,” says Aaron.

Batten down your construction contract

Ben House, a Houston-based construction attorney, advises clients to prepare their construction contract.

“A contractor needs to ensure that any contract it is performing work under contains appropriate force majeure language,” says Ben, “as well as a complete understanding of the parameters of that language.”

Unfortunately, too many contractors don’t act in time. “If your project can conceivably extend into hurricane season,” Ben says, “then by the time a storm rolls into the gulf, it’s too late to include or negotiate such terms.”

Reduce your risk with the right insurance policy

Adam Richards, a Miami-based attorney, tells contractors to take a look at their insurance policy. “Contractors must make sure to protect themselves in their prime and subcontracts with respect to insurance, especially builder’s risk,” he says.

That includes “related issues with respect to waivers of subrogation, deductibles, and potential allegations of negligence in connection with a loss event.”

“When preparing for an approaching storm,” says Adam, “a hurricane plan, collaboration with ownership, and documenting those preparation efforts along with the pre-hurricane condition of the building are essential.” 

Adam couldn’t resist sharing one final tip: “Resolve any outstanding issues, i.e. delays, change orders, etc., prior to a potential loss event!”

Action Steps for Gulf Coast Contractors

Have you taken these precautions to protect your projects? Great, but your job isn’t finished yet. In the event of a natural disaster, there are a few key steps contractors can take to enforce and fully take advantage of this preparation.

Payment disputes are bound to arise when projects are interrupted, especially when nobody thinks they’re at fault for a natural disaster. Contractors can prepare by protecting their mechanics lien rights.

It’s always a smart move to send preliminary notice at the start of each job. It’s also a good idea to consult an attorney to review your contracts as well. Ben, Aaron, and Adam are accepting consultations by phone or email.

Need a construction attorney in your neck of the woods? Check out these lawyer lists of top lawyers in each Gulf Coast state:

And it can’t hurt to bookmark the National Hurricane Center to stay informed on developing storms, where they’re headed, and how severe they might be.