One of the most litigated construction law issues is whether a contractor is entitled to payment for additional work performed without a fully executed written change order. Most construction contracts state that the contractor is not entitled to payment for any additional work, unless the additional work is performed pursuant to a written change order that has been sign by the owner, contractor and the architect. The problem is that — because time is money — waiting for a signed change order is often costly so most contractors move forward with additional work based upon verbal agreements with the intention of executing a written change order at a later date.
Most of the time, no problems arise from having performed additional work without first having a written change order. The parties abide by their verbal commitments, which are then incorporated into the written change order required by the contract. Once in a while, however, an owner will refuse to issue payment for work that was performed without a written change order despite an oral agreement being reached during the project. In these situations, some courts have enforced the contract provision requiring written change orders and have denied the contractor the right to recover payment for his work.