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Most often we seen the Plans and Specifications incorporated into the contract. The effect is to make them a part of the contract documents. The obligation to fulfill the provisions of the Plans and Specifications is just as binding as any contract clause actually written in the contract.

This can extend down several levels. In our example the Plans and Specs are now part of the contract. The Specifications may then incorporate other documents such as installation requirements. A particular product may be specified with the requirement that it be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The effect of this is to incorporate those instructions into the contract. The fact that these requirements were not included in your estimate will not prevent enforcement of these obligations.

Another typical incorporation is found in subcontract agreements where the contract between the owner and contractor is incorporated by reference. Again all of the terms of that general contract are now terms of the subcontract including the documents incorporated into the general contract. The subcontractor then assumes an obligation to perform under those terms. The fact that you have not seen the incorporated documents will not relieve your of their requirements.

Since these types of clauses are enforceable, a failure to comply is a breach of contract subjecting you to damages for any failure to comply. The first step, of course, is to obtain each of these documents, before you sign a contract. All of the incorporated documents must be reviewed in detail to determine the extent of your obligations. Any provisions that are not acceptable should be specifically deleted from your contract.

Contracts are like seat belts. Putting them on takes time and energy and on most trips they serve no useful purpose. However when an accident happens they become your most important accessory. Many jobs get done without ever looking at the contract. However, when problems arise on the job usually the first thing that comes out of the file cabinet is the contract. You may be in for some unpleasant surprises if you haven’t looked at the incorporated documents.