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The power of the written word. Formal change order or confirmation of work changes via email or text message is a must. Projects move fast and a fast means of communicating changes is essential.

Bruce, something seems to be missing from the narrative. Why would the contractor be faced with LD's if the changes were made by others?

In any event, it takes only 5 minutes to draft a quick memo of understanding, or broad form CO that sets forth the scope in general terms and provides for determination of costs and time extensions as the work proceeds or is completed.

Seems someone is always complaining there's no time for paperwork... but apparently plenty of time for claims or litigation.

Each party needs to protect his/her interests, and unless you have confidence in a handshake deal, you need to have something in writing to document the 'agreement' upon which the parties are moving forward.

regards, as always,

Hil, my thoughts exactly! A time extension request should be automatic in a case like this. Also, even when time is of the essence, a quick email to get approval for any estimated additional charges should be sent prior to beginning the changed work. Hil is right on target.


In private work, it is impossible to stay on schedule without complete specifications. Owners invariably lament over finishes and without approved submittals delays are inevitable. If every decision required a change order the paperwork, even electronically, would bury the contractor in overhead time. There usually is and should be a trust factor established with the client to expedite the process, so that even if the paper trail lags, the project stays on schedule, with limited delays.

Northstar General Inc.

There are changes that fit into the flow of the base contract work and these are typically completed, albeit unfairly, at the contractor's risk, without the formality of a change order. Other changes are distinct from the base contract work and the contractor should delay proceeding until a change order is issued.

Good comments! It seems that the best course of action would be the issuance of a Construction Change Directive...(Signed by the owner). Other wise the contractor is within their right (and duty) to complete the work under the original contract scope. A renegotiated construction schedule would have been stipulated in this change document. In today's "real world", all meaningful communication must be documented. Fifty plus years ago, a handshake was enough to get it done.

This is a great topic. . . we all find ourselves in this predicament. I have successfully sent an email that states;

"We are proceeding with this work on the basis that you recognize that this work is a change from the original plans,&/or specs and that you wish us proceed immediatly to reduce any schedule impact. If I have misunderstood any part of your instructions & you do not intend to issue a change order for this work; you must notify me immediately so that I can change our current course of action."

This gives the contractor at least the the comfort level of smoking out any disagreement before he proceeds, because if the owner does not send anything he is indicating an agreement. Contractor will still have to argue as to value or schedule impact of the change. But the the owners non-action gives the contractor the directive to proceed.

With the technology resources available today, there is really no excuse for failing to document changes in scope.

This is a good article, and it has prompted some very good and instructional comments.
In my experience federal and some state agencies, with regards to changes or modifications and their schedule impacts, are the most equitable. The primary problem, again in my experience, has been with smaller governments that contract out their project design and contract administration.

Signing tickets from the Subcontractor with the GC is a good practice as well. The price or value can be argued later as with any change order

Time and Time again we get caught up in the black hole known as trust. And the old saying "Trust but Verify" should apply here. In the end, if the contract documents have a directive for change orders then follow it to the letter. No court accepts "He said she said"

This sounds to me like the very reason for existence of the Construction Change Directive (CCD) document referred to earlier. That document puts all parties on notice that a change has occurred and there has not been sufficient time to negotiate a fee acceptable to both sides for the work which needs to be started without delay.

We all know that this is not a subject where one answer fits all. The one common factor is that THE CONTRACTOR MUST GIVE TIMELY NOTICE OF A CHANGE. However, what happens after that is not usually within his control. If the authorized representative of the Owner is not forthcoming with a timely response (not an unusual circumstance) the Contractor is put in a bad situation and must make a decision. Technically, by the letter of most contracts, he should stop work on the changes but this is usually not an option because the overall work may be stopped or altered in ways that have serious repercussions for the Contractor. More times than not the decision is to proceed with the work, including the changed work, and pray that the Owner's representatives are moral persons and will follow up with the paper work and fair compensation. Sometimes this is a bad gamble, but over the long term I feel that this has been the best way to proceed.

My thoughts based on information provided in the narrative are that the Contractor already had some sort of comfort level with the owner or Project Manager influencing him to invest time and money in something he may have misunderstood as a request to furnish a cost and schedule for a proposed change in work. It is too easy these days for a Contractor to request an e-mail or some sort of documentation approving any additional cost and/or extension to the contract. Would be interested in some more details and the outcome.

When we do a contract it is specified who can approve change orders. If the landlord was not on that list it would be up to the contractor to inform the landlord that he would have to get with whomever, the owner in this case, and get the change order approved. In the mean time the contractor will continue working and if addirtional days or even rework is required the owner would have to approve of the delays and the extra cost. After all, he who holds the Money holds the power.

Of course it well informative topic.Now days many things are changed and all the necessary work are documented and more information are available through the net, so that type issues are happening less number.

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