Last edited 28 Jul 2018

Stop work order

In the United States, a stop work order (SWO) is a formal notice that can be issued to a contractor by a client compelling them to suspend or cease work. SWOs are typically permitted by all federal contracts as a means of protecting workers, the public, buildings, the surrounding area, the environment, and so on.

Building officials can issue SWOs if inspectors decide that the works are in violation of building codes, zoning ordinances, or any other law or regulation, including health and safety rules.

If an SWO is not subsequently followed with an order to resume work (a start order), it amounts to the contract being terminated.

The following items are typically included in an SWO:

  • A description of the activities being suspended (it may only relate to a portion of the works).
  • Instructions for the contractor relating to any orders, permits, or services that are pending.
  • Instructions about how to manage subcontracts.
  • How the contract can be terminated if required.
  • How a start order will be issued (what needs to be resolved, how to arrange a re-inspection and so on).
  • The penalties that will be imposed if the SWO is not followed.

It is important that all costs are documented and tracked during the SWO process so that they can be reimbursed if appropriate at a later date. The contractor may be entitled to an adjustment or reappraisal of the schedule and contract price if the SWO means that there is an increase in the time and cost of delivering the project.

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