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Can I file a breach of contract if a customer refuses to let me do the job after I have started just because she thinks I'm not going fast enough

VirginiaConstruction ContractLawsuitMechanics LienNotice of Intent to LienRecovery Options

I started the job poured the footing and had to exsplan to her it takes 24 hours for them.to dry before I can build on them went the next day set all post and poured concrete around them and again had to explain they needed to dry 24 hours o. The 3rd day had a guy getting job ready to start building while I picked up more material and before I could get back she had told him to get our stuff and get off the job which was a Tuesday and we had agreed that I wo8be done by that Saturday It wasn't anything that couldn't have been done in the time frame we had set

1 reply

Jul 24, 2019
I'm sorry to hear about that. Ultimately, it may come down to the contract for the job. If there was a specific timetable for certain things to be done by certain dates, there's a chance that terminating the contract may have been appropriate. But, in a situation where the project is more or less on schedule and the project completion date is clearly attainable - prematurely terminating the contract may result in a breach of the contract. But, ultimately, it will come down to what's in the contract.

Of course, any time legal action is being contemplated, it's worth assessing the potential costs and what could be recovered. Typically, full-blown litigation is a risky, expensive, and time-consuming endeavor. So, when relatively small amounts are in play, litigation might not always be the best first choice.

Instead of filing a traditional lawsuit, when there's a relatively small amount in dispute, small claims court might be a good option. In Virginia, small claims court can be utilized to recover debts of $5,000 or less. So, in a situation where a claimant wants to pursue legal action, but doesn't necessarily want the cost and time associated with traditional litigation, pursuing a claim in small claims court might be a good idea. You can learn more about Virginia small claims court here: Virginia Small Claims Court Procedures.

Options outside of the court system
Of course, lawsuits are hardly the only way to recover payment. When unpaid for construction work, in fact, a mechanics lien is often the most powerful tool available. By filing a mechanics lien, a claimant can put the owner's property title in jeopardy and force them to address the debt. Owners cant ignore a lien claim because, if left unattended, the lien could end up costing them their property if the lien is enforced. This is only one reason among many why mechanics liens can lead to payment. Granted, there are strict notice and deadline requirements associated with lien claims - so it's important to take a look at those before deciding to file a mechanics lien. For more information on Virginia's mechanics lien rules: (1) Virginia Mechanics Lien Guide and FAQs; (2) How to File a Virginia Mechanics Lien.

Finally, because mechanics liens are so effective, merely threatening to file one can lead to payment. By sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien, many prospective lien claimants are able to resolve their disputes without actually having to file a mechanics lien or having to pursue legal action. Because a mechanics lien poses such a serious threat to the property title, many owners prefer to resolve their payment issues before having to fend off a lien claim. More on that here: What Is a Notice of Intent to Lien and Should You Send One?

Before resorting to threats or claims, talking it out could help
Tempers run hot in construction disputes - it's just the nature of the business. When there's a dispute, generally the best course of action is to cool off and try and talk out the dispute with the owner and try to either obtain payment for work already performed or to continue work on the job. So, when possible, it's typically a good idea to try and settle things before they get ugly.
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