Bankruptcy of the owner or developer of a real estate construction project can be very unsettling to contractors. But a declaration of bankruptcy by the developer, in and of itself, does not constitute a breach of contract such that the contractor can stop working. Contract provisions providing that the contract is terminated if a party becomes insolvent or files for bankruptcy are generally unenforceable.
Partially-performed construction contracts are executory contracts, meaning that the obligations of the parties to the contract have not yet been fully performed. The Bankruptcy Code allows a bankruptcy trustee (in a Chapter 7 dissolution case) or the debtor-in-possession (in a Chapter 11 reorganization case) either to assume or to reject an executory contract. A debtor-in-possession has until the time of the confirmation of its plan of reorganization to decide if it will assume or reject the contract. The contractor may ask the bankruptcy court to require the debtor-in-possession to make a decision on the contract sooner, but the court will most likely give the debtor-in-possession a fair amount of time to make the decision.
Reprinted courtesy of Troy R. Covington and Stephen M. Parham, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.
Mr. Covington may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Parham may be contacted at email@example.com