One of the most common causes of construction disputes we see is an ill-defined Scope of Work. When drafting a construction contract, workers will frequently put a lot of focus on compensation and deadlines. They tend to put less focus on the Scope of Work, which invariably can lead to issues down the line. Whether or not these issues escalate to the point of a lawsuit, they can be easily avoided at the beginning of the project.
A Scope of Work is a written agreement that clearly lays out the work that is set to be done on a construction project. It can be a section of the construction contract or a document all on its own. It should be worded so clearly that everyone who reads it is on the exact same page. The main reason for writing it out is so that the miscommunication or impermanence of verbal agreements are entirely avoided. There is no set way to write a Scope of Work, but here are some elements that it should cover:
- Project Overview: An actual statement that clearly and quickly states what the work is, who is expected to complete it, and by when.
- Milestones: Goals along the way that show that the project is on track to be completed on time. Milestones can be as frequent or infrequent as you want, but they should be included.
- Project Scope: Details the full extent of the work that is expected. This is the heart of the Scope of Work, and should be thoroughly detailed. If there is anything someone might “assume should be included,” you need to spell it out for everyone here.
- Timeline: This should include when you are expecting to hit your milestones, as well as when you are expecting the project to be completed.
Unlike other elements of a contract, changes to a Scope of Work are common and expected. Think about how often an unexpected issue arises and changes your expected timeline. As long as these changes are clearly communicated and agreed upon by everyone, they are no cause for alarm. It is important that your Scope of Work is signed by everyone involved in the project when they come to work on it, including contractors and all sub-contractors.
The issues workers run into is when a Scope of Work is vague and confusing. If your Scope of Work is not specific, that means different people can read it and come away with different expectations. That leads to disputes over the work done. Make certain you clearly outline the work at every step of the way. The Scope of Work should be written so that anyone can read it and understand it, not just subcontractors who know the specific lingo. Write your Scope of Work so that it will hold up in court, and then you’ll never have to find out the hard way if it can.
At Capshaw & Associates, we have seen a poorly written Scope of Work lead to a construction dispute one too many times. If you are drafting one, contact us today to get another set of eyes on it who already know what to look for. If you are in a legal dispute currently, reach out to get the help you deserve. We are a civil trial law firm happy to help with your needs!