What is a contract dispute?
A contract dispute is a claim by one party to a contract that the other party failed to complete the obligations under the contract. The contract may be written or oral in most instances, and the dispute may or may not be over the payment of money. Some examples of contract disputes include, but are not limited to:
- a claim from a home seller that a real estate agent failed to properly market the property
- a dispute with a contractor over the quality of work performed
- a dispute arising from a homebuyer that refuses to complete the purchase of a property
- a dispute arising from the failure to disclose certain defects in a home
- a dispute arising from a failed business transaction or partnership
- a dispute arising as to the distribution of assets from a real estate investment
- a dispute regarding the ownership of a home or other building
- a dispute related to the property line between two properties
What options do I have to resolve my contract dispute other than filing a lawsuit?
I generally recommend starting with a demand letter. A demand letter is simply a letter that outlines the reasons for the dispute and the amount of money you would like the other party to pay. The demand letter could also list certain actions you want the other party to take instead of requesting payment. The purpose of a demand letter is to see if there is any possibility of settlement prior to incurring the costs of litigation. It is not common for another party to simply respond to a demand letter with payment. Instead, the response is usually a counter offer for settlement.
If you have already received a demand letter from the other party, the next step is to respond to that letter. Depending on the dispute and your likelihood of success if it went to trial, the appropriate response may be a response letter or simply a phone call to discuss the matter.
How long does a contract dispute take?
The court process does not move quickly, but the timeline for each case will vary significantly. For cases involving small disputes, the matter may be resolved in six months. Larger disputes may take a year or longer. In addition to the size of the dispute, factors such as what motions are filed by the opposing parties, what discovery is conducted, and the court’s calendar can all play a role in the time it takes to resolve a matter. For these reasons, it is important to fully discuss your situation and to consider the cost of litigation versus the value of the dispute. If the dispute is only over a few thousand dollars, it may not make sense to proceed to litigation. However, if the damages are significant, litigation can be a critical option for recovering what is owed to you.