For the South Florida construction industry, the coronavirus pandemic has caused suspensions of construction projects and a complete shutdown of the permitting/inspection department in Miami-Dade County. Contractors facing these and other challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak will need to consider several strategies to help mitigate the impact and decrease their losses.
The process should begin with thorough contract reviews by qualified construction attorneys for their “force majeure” provisions, which are typically incorporated in construction contracts to afford contractors with relief in circumstances that are considered “acts of God,” “unforeseen events” or “natural disasters.” These clauses may allow contractors to obtain time extensions on completions and possibly also recover additional costs or increase their total payment terms.
Legal counsel will evaluate whether current conditions categorize the COVID-19 outbreak as a force majeure event or whether other contractual provisions may apply to allow for claims for added costs and time extensions. Though a virus has never impacted the construction industry to this magnitude before, contractors may be able to turn to force majeure law or other similar contract provisions to file claims and seek damages.
Contractors will also need to follow the notice provisions under their contracts for communicating delays and additional costs. It is essential to use their contracts as the guide for the time limits for giving proper notice as well as determining who must be copied on the notice and how it should be delivered.