Three words no contractor ever wants to see are “Stop Work Order.” An SWO can come from a project owner. However, the reasons they can issue a SWO typically need to be detailed in the contract. These often include things like payment or health code issues. Because they’re included in the contract, they can be relatively easy to avoid.
Often, SWOs are issued by government inspectors and agencies. They can issue a full SWO, which requires the entire project to be shut down until the issues(s) are fixed. They may also issue a partial SWO, which mandates a shutdown of only one area of the site or of a particular type of work on a project
Every state and city varies in how stringent they are regarding construction projects and the penalties for not complying with a SWO. New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and its inspectors take its SWOs very seriously.
Why the DOB might issue an SWO
The DOB typically issues SWOs when it determines that there’s an issue that compromises the health or safety of workers, residents or the property itself. The issue doesn’t have to be specifically related to the construction. For example, last year, the DOB issued more than 40 SWOs on projects where social distancing, cleanliness and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols reportedly weren’t being enforced.
If a project continues before a SWO is lifted, the DOB can issue a $5,000 fine. If it has to issue another fine, the amount increases to $10,000. SWO patrols conduct unannounced inspections to ensure that work isn’t being done in violation of an SWO.
How to get an SWO lifted
To get the SWO lifted, those in charge of the project need to:
- Correct the violation(s)
- Complete a Certificate of Correction (along with any supporting documentation)
- Have the site re-inspected
- Pay any penalties they’ve been assessed and fees for lifting the SWO
Determining who is responsible for the issue that caused a SWO and who needs to pay the fines as well as the added costs for lost time, fixes necessary to get the SWO lifted and more can be difficult. It may be wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that your business doesn’t suffer unnecessary losses.