A roofer agreed to perform roof maintenance and repairs for a community of town homes in return for set monthly payments. He would “repair each tile roof leak discovered within 72 hours.” Excluded were leaks caused by natural disasters. After a hurricane had extensively damaged a number of roofs within the community, the roofer said that such repair work was not covered under his contract. So the community withheld his next monthly payment and the contractor sued.
The trial court struggled with the language in the contract, finding it ambiguous. Did the parties mean occasional leaks caused by normal wear and tear or multiple leaks as might be caused by hurricane damage? And would temporary or permanent repairs be accomplished within the stated 72 hours? Of course, each side presented a different interpretation. Because the intent of the parties could not be determined from the contract terms alone, the court decided to hear the testimony of the parties and their experts to sort through their competing claims.
While the roofer eventually prevailed, he learned a lesson that some additional clarity up front when negotiating and writing a contract would be well worth the extra effort. It would save him from the unnecessary aggravation and heartburn when the unexpected occurs.
You wouldn’t go to a heart doctor for a broken arm. Consider consulting a construction attorney when drafting a construction contract.