The use of standard, preprinted contract forms offers a convenience. The agreement is comprehensive and addresses the essential issues that might arise on a construction project. If the agreement is an industry standard, such as the AIA contract documents, it has been widely interpreted by the courts. There should be few surprises.
Problems arise, however, when parties misuse preprinted contract forms. A recent example involved the AIA contract documents where the project architect is assigned numerous administrative responsibilities under the contract. This includes an initial decision on claims or disputes – a prerequisite to arbitration. When no project architect is designated or hired, how is the contract to be read? Is the arbitration clause enforceable?
Parties sometimes modify or customize preprinted forms in order to make them more appropriate for the circumstances of a particular project. Having paid for the use of the copyrighted form, this is permissible. But it should be done with great care – probably with professional advice. Just as misuse of an unaltered form can create unexpected problems, modification can as well. The Advisor wants to hear from readers regarding their practices with preprinted contract forms.
Featured next week in the Construction Claims Advisor:
- Failure to Name Architect Rendered AIA Document AmbiguousContractor’s Sworn Statement
- Was Not Assurance of Subcontractor Payment
- Prospective Subcontractor Could Not Challenge Award Decision