Construction Contract Clauses, Part 4 – Express Trust Clauses

An express trust clause can be used in a construction contract to create a trust over payments received by a contractor or subcontractor. The effect of establishing a trust is that it creates property rights in construction project payments and obligates the contractor receiving such payments to fulfill the fiduciary duty of using the trust funds to pay the named beneficiaries. The following is an example of an express trust clause:

All payments made by Contractor to Subcontractor shall be held in trust for the benefit of the Contractor and those persons having contracted with Subcontractor to provide materials or labor to the project.

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AIA 2017 – What’s New About The Old?

In April 2017, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released the 2017 editions of its flagship agreements, including the Owner-Contractor Agreement (A101), Owner-Contractor Agreement, Cost Plus a GMP (A-102), the General Conditions of Contract (A201) and the Contractor-Subcontractor Agreement (A401).  Significantly, AIA also created a new comprehensive insurance and bonds Exhibit (Exhibit A) to be used with these agreements.

Some interesting changes to note:

Liquidated Damages. Liquidated Damages are now expressly identified with a new provision.  In prior revisions, LDs were merely suggested in a “prompt” as an insertion. Furthermore, the Owner is not required to file a Claim to impose liquidated damages.  Prior AIA versions were silent on whether Owner was required to file a formal claim; courts addressing the question reached differing results.
Captive Insurance Costs.  Contractor must obtain Owner’s prior approval of Contractor’s costs for insurance provided through a captive insurer owned or controlled by Contractor.
Allocation of GMP.  Adopting a revision commonly made by the parties, if a GMP is given, allocation of the GMP does not constitute a separate GMP for each individual line item on the Schedule of Values.

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Construction Contract Clauses, Part 3 – Site Investigation Clauses

A site investigation clause is a provision in a construction contract that indicates that one of the parties has made an inspection of the property, project, or location where certain services, labor, or material will be provided, and that the party making the inspection is satisfied that performance will be possible given the circumstances. The following is an example of a site investigation clause:

Each contractor shall examine the construction site and area and compare its findings with the Drawing and Specification and shall inform and satisfy itself as to all matters necessary for carrying out the work; including but not limited to, general working conditions, labor and equipment requirements, accessibility, condition of the premises, obstructions, drainage conditions, actual levels, excavating, filling, etc. The Contractor shall investigate all conditions as to character of the site and character of existing structures at or adjacent to the site, and the character and extent of the Owner’s and other Contractors’ operations in the area, and in connection with the project, and shall take all such matters into account in submitting its bid. No allowance or extra payment will be subsequently made because of any such items or conditions occasioned by the Contractor’s failure to make such comparison and examination or on account of interferences from the Owner’s, Construction Manager’s and other Contractors’ activities, or by reason of any error or oversight on the Contractor’s part.

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Minding Your Zoning Ps & Qs

Some say it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. That’s not the case when it comes to complying with zoning ordinances, as recently learned by defendants in a zoning enforcement action brought by the Village of Pentwater.

In Village of Pentwater v Bates, (March 2017), Bates bought a 12×12 storage shed and moved it to an 8-acre wooded, vacant parcel in the Village of Pentwater. Bates initially claimed that village officials said they didn’t need a permit to place the shed on the parcel. Later, the zoning administrator informed Bates that because the parcel was within a single family residential zone, the shed was permitted only if it was an accessory building to a residential structure. Bates responded that they intended to build a house on the parcel. They then received a zoning permit to build a house. Thereafter, however, Bates abandoned any immediate plans to build the home.

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