Written by attorney Alexander Edward Barthet

Enforcing Your Construction Contract

Whether you have an oral or written contract (preferably written), the party that hired you may be ultimately liable for payment. Specific contract terms aside, what are the steps to get paid on your construction contract? First, ensure that the debtor has all of the bills or payment applications you claim are due, including the most recent that may include your retainage, claims, delays and the like. If you have not yet compiled it, do it now and send it right away. You can’t expect someone to pay you if they don’t yet have your bills and payment applications.

Next, you need to contact the debtor. Do it verbally and in writing, nicely and firmly but do it, and do the best you can to get the customer to start paying you. Unfortunately, once is usually not enough – several calls and emails are usually required. Once you get a hold of them, if possible, resolve any disputes as to the goods or services immediately and in writing. It is almost always better to give a small credit in exchange for a payment, and move on. If you do, expressly condition the credit on prompt payment by a date certain.

Additionally, avoid emotional decision making. Leave your feelings at the door when you deal with credit and collection issues; it makes resolving a business dispute much easier (and cheaper in the long run).

Finally, once you determine that there’s nothing more you can do yourself, don’t wait to enforce your legal rights. Contact a Florida Bar board certified construction lawyer right away. If you have lien or bond rights, make sure to get competent legal advice well before those rights expire. Every day that goes by makes it that much harder to collect the debt.

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