Settle vs Hassle: Mediation can help put a construction project back on track when it becomes adversarial


Construction by its very nature is adversarial. On a typical remodel anywhere in America, a homeowner enters into a contract with what are usually perfect strangers to rip up, demolish and then rebuild the single most personal and valuable asset they own, their family home.


A good contractor will have a written contract.

A good contractor will have a written contract that describes the products to be used, (hopefully in detail) as well as a description of the work to be performed. If all goes well, the work and improvements are completed and the contractor is paid the agreed upon price for the work performed.

In too many cases that is not the happy ending we all strive for. Of the over 235,000 active contractors in California, many are subjected to complaints being filed against their licenses. There are 20,000 complaints per year filed with the Contractors State License Board. In the more contentious cases, an actual lawsuit is filed against contractors and their license.

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Let’s take a step back and see where the breakdown between the parties occurred. All relationships, marriage, friendship and agreements between homeowners and contractors start out amicably. The breakdowns begin with misunderstandings which lead to lack of trust and in the case of marriage, divorce. It is sometimes harder to divorce yourself from your contractor than your spouse.

Before letting things get to a fever pitch with your clients, consider calling a competent mediator that can accurately assess the situation and make suggestions to you and your client that can get the job back on track rather than derailing the train and all the cars with it.

Written by: General Contractor Expert Witness No. 2237

About the Author:
Expert No. 2337 has been a licensed General Contractor for 33 years in the State of California. He is also a panelist and arbitrator/mediator with The American Arbitration Association since 1991. He pioneered the “On Site Negotiation” (OSN) process with the CSLB in 2003. The innovative approach to complaints against a contractor by a homeowner brings the parties together for a resolution at the beginning of the complaint. The OSN program has a remarkable 90% success rate and is still being used by the CSLB as a method of resolution in the complaint process.