Payment in Governmental Construction Contracts in Maryland

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently denied payment to a governmental construction contractor for change order work that was performed and agreed upon onsite, because the contract required approval by the County Council regarding any amendment to the contract.

Specifically, an architectural and engineering company entered into a governmental contract with Baltimore County for services related to the expansion of the Baltimore County Detention Center. During the course of construction, the contractor performed work outside of the scope of the contract and at the direction of Baltimore County. Unfortunately, the contractor failed to obtain approval from the County Council.

Unlike private contacts where the parties may be able to orally modify the written terms of a construction contract, public construction jobs in Maryland require the contractor to follow the terms of the contract and applicable legislation related to the same. Maryland Courts have held on several occasions that the County could only contract by the method outlined by the Maryland General Assembly. Therefore, the Count may never have an obligation imposed upon it to use public monies unless the uses of the public funds were approved by the formal manner expressed by law.

As a practical tip, a governmental contractor must ensure that it is wholly in compliance with its contract with the State of Maryland, especially regarding to any issues arising out of payment. For additional questions on governmental construction contracts in Maryland or other construction-related issues in Maryland, contact Michael W. Siri at


210 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 400
Towson, Maryland 21204