I have spoken often regarding the need for a well written construction contract that sets out the “terms of engagement” for your construction project. A written construction contract sets expectations and allows the parties to the contract to determine the “law” of their project. An unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” can lead to confusion, faulty memories, and more money paid to construction counsel than you would like as we lawyers play around in the grey areas.
One other area where the written versus unwritten distinction makes a difference is in the calculation of the statute of limitations. In Virginia, a 5 year statute of limitations applies to written contracts while a 3 year statute of limitations applies to unwritten contracts. This distinction came into stark relief in the case of M&C Hauling & Constr. Inc. v. Wilbur Hale in the Fairfax, Virginia Circuit Court. In M&C Hauling, M&C provided hauling services to the defendant through a subcontract with Hauling Unlimited in 2014, the last of which was in July. M&C provided over 2000 hours of hauling and provided time tickets (that were passed to Mr. Hale on Hauling Unlimited letterhead and signed by Mr. Hale or his agent) and an invoice stating the price term of $75.00 per hour. No separate written contract between M&C and Hauling Unlimited or Mr. Hale existed.