Contractor Claims to Need More Time
We had a contractor who was supposed to start a project in late 2019. The project is still not finished and well past deadline. The contractors is claiming they need extra time and to increase the contract price because of Covid delays. Can they do this? Do I have to pay them more to complete the job? What should I do?
A lot will depend on the terms of your specific contract. It may be beneficial for you to retain an attorney to look over the terms of the contract. For example, there may be provisions that allow for price increases, delays, etc.
In general, though, if a contractor has failed to follow the terms of the contract regarding price, timeline, work performance, etc., you may have a claim for breach of contract.
One defense to a breach of contract involves impossibility – meaning, if a contract cannot be performed, then there may be an excuse of performance. Imagine a situation where a couple has rented a venue for their wedding on April 2. If, on April 1, a tornado sweeps through and knocks the building down, the venue owner would have a good reason to not comply with the obligation in the contract to rent out the space to the couple – because there is no longer a space in existence! That is an extreme example, but the concept of impossibility has arisen due to Covid and the subsequent supply chain issues. Courts are just now working through these breach of contract cases to decide if Covid-related delays are valid for late work/price increases/etc. It will likely be some time before a definitive standard on these issues arises.
Given that so much of a breach of contract claim depends on the terms of the specific contract, I strongly suggest you contact an attorney. Even if you just paid for an analysis of the contract and memorandum advising as to next step options, it would be money well spent.