It’s not uncommon in the course of a home construction project for changes to be made to the contract’s scope of work. Perhaps a room needs to be expanded to accommodate a deeper closet or the original placement of kitchen cabinets is no longer the best choice when you realize that you always wanted counter space where people could sit at the counter and talk to you while you prepare a meal.
Regardless of the alteration, a change in the scope of work will likely affect the project’s total cost as well as its completion date. These changes, not handled in the proper manner, are the most cited reason for disputes between the contractor and client.
To that end, it is vitally important for the contractor to detail these changes in writing, known as a “change order,” and for both the contractor and homeowner to sign the order prior to that work being performed. This simple act, if ignored, could lead to a giant legal headache if any disputes arise over cost increases or delays to a project’s timeline. The best practice for both parties is to maintain clear, direct, and documented communication.
So, what should a change order contain? For starters, a description of the additional work or the change to the original scope of work. But, generalities such as “cabinets” or “counter tops” is not an adequate description of the work to be done. What type of material is the cabinets going to be made from? Full pull-out drawers? Are the shelves going to be pull-outs? What kind of hardware? Solid doors? Other necessary information is a list of the revised costs and the changes to the work schedule. Pictures of the area subject to the change order can be helpful but are not a requirement.
To be completely effective the change order should be as specific as possible to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding. And, again, it is critical that both the contractor and homeowner sign and date the change order before the work described is performed.
Most contractors already use a change order template, but whether you’re a contractor or a homeowner, if there’s any question as to the contract or the change order’s content and form, it is always wise to consult with a reputable construction attorney. It can save you many headaches down the road.