What to Do If Your Construction Project Is Shut Down During the Pandemic
Although the stay-at-home order issued in the state of Florida generally sees construction as an essential service, local governments are allowed to adopt stricter requirements than those in the order. As reported by the Miami Herald, several cities throughout Miami-Dade County, including Golden Beach and Key Biscayne, have done so by banning construction projects. As of the time of this writing, Miami construction companies have yet to be given a blanket shutdown order; however, that could all change at a moment’s notice.
“Today we will be going to construction sites and enforcing that on a site-by-site basis,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to Local 10 News. “Some sites are doing fine, some sites are not doing fine. I’m not going to put a blanket order to close everything but those businesses and those sites that are not compliant with the order, we will shut them down.”
In this editorial, a Miami contractor attorney will discuss the steps you should take following a project shutdown. This information is vital whether your site has already been shut down or you’re a Florida contractor preparing for a worst-case scenario. If at any point you require legal assistance during this difficult time, a coronavirus construction lawyer with our law firm can assist you.
Securing Your Jobsite
Although there are numerous considerations that will need to be accounted for, your first duty is to ensure the safety of your workers. The next day or two will surely be hectic, but you must do everything in your power to encourage social distancing, isolate sick workers, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. With that top of mind, you can move on to securing your jobsite.
You will need to lock or secure all materials, tools, and equipment — anything of value. In addition to ensuring that these items are not lost or stolen, you’re securing these items so that they are not at risk of coming loose and damaging people or property. Florida’s hurricane season is upon us, so that’s what you’ll need to consider when preparing and prepping to close your jobsite in the limited time available to you.
While shut down, your jobsite should effectively keep out any trespassers — no one should be able to just walk in. Again, this is to prevent injury as well as thievery. Make sure that all fences are locked and that all open trenches are covered. Depending on whatever equipment or materials remain, it may be best to install a security camera or hire a security guard to watch over your jobsite.
Looking to the Future
Although it may not seem like it now, there will come a day when work can resume on your jobsite. You must prepare for that day. Start by taking photographs and documenting the status of your project and completed work. Unless otherwise stated by your contract, owners are still responsible for the cost of completed work. Make sure the owner is aware of costs and don’t be afraid to pursue payment if necessary. Any delays or additional costs incurred during the shutdown should also be documented. Documentation will be critical if a legal route is pursued and you decide to call upon a Miami construction litigation attorney.
Now that your jobsite is secured, it’s time to secure the success of the project. Look through your contract for force majeure contract clauses and price acceleration provisions. Force majeure clauses limit liability in the event of an “act of God.” Such a clause would allow for the termination of the project and would excuse your performance or otherwise allow you to receive some form of compensation. Price acceleration provisions work in a similar manner. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, you would be allowed to adjust the contract price to reflect actual project costs, thus ensuring that the owner, not you, is paying for rising material costs in the face of a global supply chain disruption.
If your contract does not include similar provisions, you still have options. However, alternative options, such as the doctrine of frustration, effectively end the contract and may not be enough to prevent litigation in many cases. If you want to be prepared for anything, we recommend consulting one of our Miami construction litigation attorneys who can review your contract and determine your best course of action.
The Road Ahead
Words can in no way describe how difficult it must be to say goodbye to trusted workers and shut down what would have otherwise been a successful project. This will likely be the most challenging situation you will ever face as a contractor, but that only means that it can only get better from here. Experts are already predicting a “construction tsunami” once the worst has passed.
At Cotney Attorneys & Consultants, we understand that this is a difficult time for virtually everyone in this industry. We’d like to let you know that we’re still here for you and the rest of the incredible men and women in the construction industry. If you require legal assistance at any time in the coming months, please reach out to a coronavirus construction attorney from Cotney Attorneys & Consultants. We’d be more than happy to help you.
If you would like to speak with one of our Miami contractor attorneys, please contact us today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.