My husband and I entered into an agreement with a contractor for the construction of our house. We provided blueprints with the exact dimensions and specifications that the house was to be built to. The agreement required the house to be built in accordance with the blueprints we provided to him. We now have some concerns in regard to the construction of the home since the dimensions are not accurate and do not match up with the blueprints; and further, the ceiling in the basement is shorter than what was originally agreed upon. What are our options to enforce the original agreement?
There is quite a bit of additional information that is needed in this scenario. We don’t even know when the original agreement was entered into. I would of course need to see the original contract and any other documentation that exists in regard to changes that may have been requested. I would also want to see any correspondence between the contractor and the parties.
That would probably give you a more complete picture of what’s going on in this case I suppose.
That’s correct. The correspondence and documentation may indicate if the parties requested any changes, or if it became difficult or impossible for the contractor to carry out their original requests for some reason. It’s also possible this information could’ve been relayed orally to either of the parties, so that needs to be considered as well.
Is it possible that the court would look at this additional information?
Yes. Generally speaking when an agreement or contract is in writing the written agreement supersedes any other documentation or evidence that may exist to alter the terms of the contract. However, the court has said that where the terms of a written contract are vague or uncertain, outside evidence is allowed to explain the ambiguous terms. Also, where an agreement is only partly written, that part which is not mentioned or covered in the written contract may be proven by competent testimony or outside evidence. That’s why it would be important to get all the information.
Absolutely. It’s better to have all the information up front so you can get a clear picture of the entire agreement.
So what are some of her options here?
Again, I would need to see the original agreement along with all other documentation, but it is possible she could bring an action for breach of contract. Prior to bringing an action, however, I would probably suggest contacting the contractor to see if an agreement can be reached without litigation. I would guess that the parties have contacted the contractor in an attempt to resolve the situation without an attorney, but it’s still a good idea to have an attorney contact the contractor as well.
They may take an attorney more seriously I would guess.
Right. An attorney can also reiterate that settling, without having to litigate the matter, will save a significant amount of time and money. They can also explain the legal implications of a breach of contract action.
A breach of contract is basically one of the parties not holding up their end up the agreement, right?
Yes, or in other words, a breach of contract is the nonperformance of a contractual duty when it is due. To establish a breach of contract, the party asserting the breach must prove the existence of a contract, a breach of the contract, and damages which flow from the breach.
That’s why the contract is so important?
Correct. The wording of the contract will likely provide a lot of the pertinent information in this case. Examples would be when the contract was entered into, when performance is to be completed, and the value of the consideration. It’s also possible there is a breach of contract and damages section which would provide guidance as to what should be done in this situation.
But ultimately it does seem as though she could bring a breach of contract action?
If there is a valid contact here, then absolutely. The difficult part would be trying to determine what her damages are. However, that’s something that could be more accurately estimated after reviewing the documentation.