As I sit down to write my annual list of resolutions for contractors, I am amazed at how much things changed in 2020. Construction was going well and then, in March 2020, COVID-19 hit. At first, we thought it was going to be a disaster for the construction industry. States, cities and towns shut down projects and many applied for PPP loans. Then, something amazing happened. Construction was considered an essential service and everyone was back to work.  That said, the work world changed: companies were donating their PPE to frontline workers, COVID-19 protocols had to be followed and paperwork had to be filed. Everyone was scrambling to figure out how to comply and keep their businesses going. So, you may or may not ask, what was I, as a construction lawyer doing? I spent March and April thinking about the new risks contractors/construction companies were facing and developing contract clauses to protect the industry. I wrote a number of blog posts with clauses to add to your contra

The Endless Punch List

In Massachusetts, a homeowner does not have to make the final payment until the work is done to "the mutual satisfaction of the parties." What is a contractor supposed to do when the homeowner is never quite satisfied, or the punch list of items to be completed never seems to end?

I have seen this situation occur with my contractor clients, where homeowners take advantage or have unrealistic expectations about when a project is complete. How can contractors avoid this problem?

1. Start with a a good contract that spells out the work to be done and the materials to be used, IN DETAIL!

2. Make sure that all change orders are in writing, and adjust the completion date accordingly. Make sure both the contractor and the homeowner signs off on all change orders.

3. Designate in the contract who the decision makers are and make sure they sign the contract and all of the change orders.

4. When the job is complete, have the homeowner create a punch list and discuss each item in detail. Agree in advance what "complete" means.

5. Plan in advance for potential delays by suppliers or for possible mistakes when ordering materials and agree what the consequence will be for these delays.

6. Once the punch list has been created over a reasonable period of time (a contractor should assume that a homeowner is not going to notice everything immediately), say over a ten day period, then the contractor should agree to come back and finish the work by a certain date.

7. Once the work is finished, it would be worthwhile to have the homeowner sign off on the job and agree that the work has been done to his satisfaction.

8. Once final payment has been made, the contractor may want to "sweeten" the deal by signing something saying that all subs have been paid or by supplying lien waivers from the subs.

9. As always, keep the lines of communication open so there are no nasty surprises at the end of the job.

10. Make sure the homeowner knows which warranties are provided and how long they will last. I know one contractor who warranties his workmanship forever.

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