Whether the project involved is small kitchen renovation or a massive new commercial skyscraper, a wide variety of statutes and regulations from numerous different sources make up what can fairly be called “construction law.” Further information regarding terms or agencies noted in bold are available on the websites noted in the links section.
Environmental protection laws, including occupational health and safety regulations, are designed to help maintain a safe work place and protect against injury and illness caused by particular substances either currently or previously in use that are hazardous, such as asbestos, chemicals, and lead-based paint. Environmental laws are enforced at the federal level (through agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency), the state level (through agencies such as the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources), and even municipal governments (on matters such as water quality).
State licensing laws establish basic practice requirements for all key components of the business of construction and construction design in order to protect consumers. Regulated fields including general contracting, architecture, engineering, and the “skilled trades” such as plumbers, electricians, and heating/ventilation/air conditioning specialists.
State and local building codes are also in place to maintain minimum engineering and construction standards. Code enforcement is primarily a county or city/town function, and is closely related to zoning regulations governing permissible use of a particular piece of property. Zoning and building codes are implemented through a permitting and inspection process that is required in order for most construction projects to be completed legally.
Lien and bond laws help individuals and companies who provide labor, materials, and/or equipment to a construction project by providing added security that the contractor will be paid per the contract for the improvements. The precise lien and bond rights available are generally dictated by the nature of the project (federal projects, state projects, or private projects) and the relationship between the lien claimant and the owner of the improved property. For example, public projects are not subject to lien claims by contractors, but some type of payment bond may often be available as an alternative. Due to recent changes in North Carolina’s mechanics lien statute, owners and contractors must now familiarize themselves with requirements regarding the appointment of lien agent and the appropriate procedure for communicating potential claims to the lien agent.
Finally, contract law forms the bedrock of a construction law practice, simply because at its heart every construction law dispute is a contract dispute. The law governing the interpretation of the parties’ construction contract is frequently the law of the state where the work is to be performed. However, the source of contract law to be employed can vary widely, either by agreement of the parties or due to the nature of the project (federal construction projects utilize elements of federal law, for example).