Even with much of the economy shutting down as a result of Coronavirus-related safety measures, construction, in large part, continues. Continuing work on projects may be essential to a construction company’s survival. It also raises a number of concerns under present circumstances, including concerns over getting paid, concerns over delays in performing work, and concerns relating to workplace safety issues.
- Getting Paid.
Even where construction projects continue, owners now may be under significant economic stress, which can put payment at risk. Present economic conditions raise the real possibility of increasing bankruptcy rates for project owners. If an owner owes you money and resorts to bankruptcy, you may be left recovering pennies on the dollar unless you can obtain status as a secured creditor. Even if your company is in a position where it need not insist on prompt payment, the current circumstances call for diligence in securing payment rights to the greatest extent possible.
Maine’s lien statute provides that opportunity. If an owner falls behind on payments, taking immediate steps to preserve your lien rights can mean that you would be treated as a secured creditor in bankruptcy, provided that the owner does not file bankruptcy in a relatively short period of time. If you become a secured creditor, you will be paid to the extent there is equity in the liened property.
However, you must be diligent. Maine’s lien statute has strict deadlines and other requirements. Failure to meet a deadline or other requirements will result in losing your lien rights.
- Delays In Performing Work.
One potential impact of Coronavirus is that it might cause a decrease in workers who are able to work. This can have significant impacts on your company’s ability to complete work on time. Unless your contract provides otherwise, you may be held to deadlines even if you lack the workforce required to meet those deadlines. A quick review of your contract will tell you if there is a force majeure provision, or a provision that allows for delays in work in the event of certain emergencies. If your contract has such a provision, it is possible that you can avoid being held responsible for delays in work.
- Workplace Safety.
The nature of construction may make it difficult to observe various safety measures that have been recommended, or, in some instances, imposed on other industries. For example, it may not be possible to have workers remain six feet apart when performing work. Nonetheless, it is important to implement reasonable safety measures. This will best ensure the safety of workers and the public. Moreover, failure to implement reasonable safety measures may expose your company to legal claims in the event people become sick.
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Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.