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When State Construction Laws Become Stricter Than Local Construction Laws

Construction laws exist on the local, state, and federal levels. However, these laws largely exist separately from each other, which can make it confusing as to which laws need to be followed. While all of these laws are valid, some are stricter than others. This is something that construction companies struggle with often since they must determine what to do when state laws become stricter than local construction laws. If you are experiencing any difficulty complying with local, state, or federal construction laws, reach out to a Charlotte construction attorney with Cotney Construction Law. 

State vs. Local Laws

Laws can exist on three different levels: federal, state, and local. The key difference between them is the area that they cover. Federal laws apply to everyone in every state and territory. State laws are more specific and only apply to people in the state. Local laws are even more specific and only apply to people in the municipal area where the law is in effect. 

Another key difference is what the laws cover. For the most part, the three levels of laws focus on different things. This is by design so that the laws do not overlap with each other except for specific circumstances. Local laws tend to deal with area-specific safety concerns and problems, while state laws tend to focus on more general protections and policies. These areas rarely overlap with each other, and state governments usually defer to local municipalities to address the most specific problems. This does, however, create a situation where you will have to follow both state and local laws simultaneously unless they overlap. 

Related: 3 Valuable Resources for Contractors Looking to Maintain Legal Compliance

Overlapping Laws

When state and federal laws overlap, this can create a problem for construction companies. How you respond depends on how the laws overlap. If the two laws contradict each other, then you will have to pick one to comply with. This is a tricky problem since not complying with either could be problematic. However, you are offered some legal protections if this situation develops. When in doubt, comply with the state regulation and seek legal guidance to find an appropriate solution. Municipal laws are not allowed to contradict state laws unless specifically allowed by the state. 

Local Laws and Preemption

Construction companies generally start with local laws when planning construction projects. These laws are often the most relevant to any project since they govern the area in which the project is being completed. Local laws usually provide the most specific insight into the needs of the community; however, there are cases where state and federal laws become more important than local laws. This process is called preemption, and it can only be used to take control of local construction laws when needed. Higher-level government organizations, like state governments, very rarely use preemption because doing so can break the relationship between local and state governments.

While preemption is a tool that is rarely used, it has been used in specific cases when state governments feel that local governments cannot or should not make different decisions. When the state government wants a uniform policy across a state, it uses preemption to make sure that it applies everywhere regardless of what local governments want. This creates problems on a local level with enforcement and other areas, but the laws are still put in place. 

Follow the Stricter Law

In cases where state laws are stricter than local laws, follow whichever one is stricter. The reason for this is that you must be able to comply with both local and state laws. If you are compliant with local laws but not with state laws, then you could still face legal issues. To comply with best practices, try to comply with the rule that is stricter. 

When you look at the laws to see which is stricter, make sure that you only adjust for a specific law instead of all of the laws. Since construction projects default to local laws first, this means that you should only adjust for a specific state law that is stricter than a local law. That way, you minimize the number of potential compliance problems that you can have during a project. 

Related: Do Prevailing Wage Laws Help or Hurt Public Construction?

Maintain Compliance on All Levels

How strict a law is only gives it higher priority when there are matching laws at the state and local levels. There are many construction laws that exist at the state, local, and federal levels that do not overlap. When this is the case, you need to comply with all of the laws that apply to your operations.  For example, state laws regarding worker’s compensation and safety regulations usually do not overlap with local laws. In fact, many local municipalities default to the state regulations so that there are less overlaps and fewer problems trying to enforce them. When this is the case, your company must comply with the state regulations while also complying with other local regulations. 

Needless to say, the combination of state and local laws that your company needs to comply with can be confusing. One of the best solutions is to work with a Charlotte construction lawyer to determine which laws apply to your projects. Managing compliance with state and federal laws can be difficult but, fortunately, construction lawyers can help your company maintain compliance with the right set of regulations. If you have questions about state and local law compliance, contact a Charlotte construction attorney from Cotney Construction Law.

If you would like to speak with a Charlotte construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.