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  Getting What You Pay for When Hiring a Church Builder
Inspections and Billing Review

One of the many services provided by architects on church construction projects are site inspections and review of contractor billings. This is an optional service that may be of benefit to churches. The architect becomes a representative of the church during the construction process and attempts to insure that the church is not paying for work that has not been satisfactorily performed in accordance with the plans and specifications.

Most builders bill the church monthly for work completed during the previous 30 days. The architect reviews the billing from the builder and based upon his site inspection determines if the builder has, in fact, performed the work for which he is billing. The architect will either approve or modify the billing. If the billing is approved by the architect, the church pays the builder. The builder, in turn, pays the subcontractors and suppliers and receives receipts for the payments. If the billing is modified, then the church, the architect, and the builder must negotiate an agreeable payment for that month.

The architect is not in control of the construction of the project and therefore cannot be held liable for the failure of the builder to build the project with the proper materials and methods. Since the architect cannot be on the project at all times, he cannot be sure that the builder has complied with the plans and building codes. He also cannot be sure that all subcontractors and suppliers have to be paid by the builder.

While the inspection and billing review services of the architect are not without their limitations, they may offer an additional level of security to the church during construction.

Getting What You Pay For

In addition to inspections and billing reviews, there are several other things that a church can do to ensure that it gets what it is paying for during the construction process.

The church should try to pay at the end of each month only for labor that is completed and materials that are on the jobsite. If the church is working with a General Contractor (GC), the church would want an independent party, such as the architect, to approve monthly payments to the builder. If the church is working with a Construction Manager (CM), he will establish the amount to be paid to subcontractors and the church will pay all subs and suppliers directly. Especially on a GC job, the church needs a way to verify that those providing labor and materials are actually getting paid. The builder should return a signed receipt and waiver of lien to the church from each subcontractor receiving money each month.

When working with a GC, any changes on the project should be agreed to in writing. Since a fixed project cost is not established on a CM job, it is important that the church have an itemized project budget. The CM can offer the church a monthly comparison of the budget versus the actual costs.

Additionally, some states allow building contracts to include a provision that no liens can be filed against the owner by anyone supplying labor or materials on the project. You should consult with an attorney familiar with your local lien laws. The church can also withhold retainage from subcontractor payments until assured of proper performance.

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