Tag: Conditional Payment

The Scheme for Construction Contracts

In recent posts we have seen two pieces of Primary Legislation being referred to, these being The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. Intrinsic to this legislation is The Scheme for Construction Contracts, a Statutory Instrument that has come into force following these acts to regulate key elements of the construction process. In this post we will examine The Scheme and its major points.

We must first remember that this legislation refers to “construction activities” as defined in the legislation. While it is not prescriptive and allows some legal interpretation, broadly a construction contract is defined as “all design and construction contracts, including professional appointments, are likely to be construction contracts as long as they relate to construction operations”.

Which leads to the further question of, “What are “construction operations?””

Again this has been left to some interpretation but includes a wide range of construction operations and most common forms of engineering operation, such as civil engineering projects.

Some engineering projects such as mining, nuclear and power generation as well as contracts with residential occupiers are expressly excluded.

Let’s now consider The Scheme for Construction Contracts. Firstly we must remember that there are a different set of regulations in place in England & Wales to those in place in Scotland. In this post we will consider the regulations as they apply in England & Wales.

The Scheme for Construction Contracts

The Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations to give them their full title apply when construction contracts do not comply with the primary legislation and either supplements the provisions of the contract where it has deficiencies relative to the requirements of the Act or replaces the contract where it is non-compliant. The purpose is to allow the contract capable of being performed (reducing the likelihood of frustration) whilst allowing regulatory control over its provisions.

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act applies  to all contracts for “construction operations” and sets out the requirements relating to Adjudication and payment, including:

  • The right to commence Adjudication
  • To be paid in interim, periodic or stage payments.
  • To be informed of the amount due, or any amounts to be withheld.
  • To suspend performance for non-payment.
  • Disallowing pay when paid clauses.

Part 1 of the Scheme makes provision for Adjudication where the contract does not comply with the requirement and Part 2 replaces those provisions in relation to payment that do not comply.

The 2011 amendments to The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 was amended in October 2011 by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 to close loop holes within the original legislation and as a result The Scheme for Construction Contracts was also amended to reflect the amendments. These amendments and their implication have been outlined in previous posts but can be broadly summarised as follows:

  • The act now applies to all construction contracts, even those not evidenced in writing
  • Adjudication clauses must still be in writing
  • Who will bear the cost of Adjudication can no longer be defined in the contract
  • The Adjudicator has the right to correct errors in contracts within 5 days of delivering a Determination
  • Payment dates must be set out in the contract.
  • A Payment Notice must be issued five days of the date for payment, even if no amount is due, although alternatively, if the contract allows, the Contractor may make an application for payment, which is treated as if it is the Payment Notice
  • A Pay Less Notice (previously a Withholding Notice) must be issued where it is intended to pay less than the amount set out in the Payment Notice, including the basis of calculation of the amount being paid less
  • The notified sum is payable by the final date for payment
  • Where a Payment Notice is not issued, the Contractor (or Sub-Contractor) may issue a Default Payment Notice
  • Pay when certified clauses are no longer allowed and retention release cannot be prevented by conditions within another contract.
  • The provisions around the right to suspend for non-payment have been expanded to allow costs to be claimed as well as the right to an Extension of time as consequences of any statutory suspension

These amendments apply to construction contracts entered into on or after 1 October 2011 in England and Wales, and 1 November 2011 in Scotland.

In the next post we will look at Part 1 (Adjudication) of The Scheme for Construction Contracts and the legal requirements and in the post after that Part 2 (Payment).

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How does PPP work

Public / Private Partnerships originated in Australia as governments sought new way of dealing with public procurement of infrastructure in the 1980’s. In the intervening periods they have remained similar as a financial model but as governments like to change the name when there is a new administration in a misguided attempt to make it look like a new policy as opposed to a rehash of the old ones there have been various iterations in the United Kingdom.

The last Conservative Government of John Major started using these financial models and they were knows as a Public Private Partnership (PPP). While in opposition Gordon Brown called into question PPP’s and made it clear they would not be used if Labour won the next General Election. So were born the  Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which as the Labour government became tired and ran out of steam were ridiculed by Gideon Osbourne and would not form part of any incoming Conservative government procurement plans. Of course a little tweak here and there and now we have Private Finance 2 (PF2).

Yet in reality they are little changed, save for the minor tweaks.

What are Public Private Partnerships?

Public Private Partnerships are generally where public services or private business ventures are funded and operated through a partnership between the Government and one or more private sector companies.

They allow Government to contract out the design, building and operation of a facility for the benefit of the public to a private sector company usually for a period of 25 to 30 years usually based on a “value for money” test over traditional procurement. In effect government had two ways to procure:

  • A standard procurement structure, in which the Government specified what it wanted in terms of an asset and then paid a contractor to build that asset. The Government then took ownership of the asset, and took on the obligation to maintain it, after it was built; or
  • A PPP structure in which the Government specified what it wanted in terms of a service and either pay a service provider to make that service available, or allow the service provider to retain the resulting revenue or share it with the Government.

However the effective result of PPP is that everything is procured through the PPP model and has resulted in almost every aspect of what the government provided being effectively sub-contracted, through large service providers, such as Capita. There is some miss-guided notion that a private company can run the service for less money and still make a profit than government after factoring in inherent inefficiency. The actual result is usually poorer service. There is a scandal every so often, the culprit is given a token ban from securing government work, but this is soon dropped and they back on the gravy train.

A worked example

For the purposes of this example we will assume the highway authority want to provide traffic relief by building a new toll road (such as the M6 toll which by-passes Birmingham via Cannock in the West Midlands) and maintaining and managing the asset for a 25 year period.

There would clearly be key functions that would need to be considered and evaluated by the PPP operator, such as

  • The cost of building and operating the road would need to secured
  • The PPE contractor would have to engage a designer to determine the layout and specification of the road
  • A contractor would need to be appointed to construct the road
  • A service organisation would be required to clean the road, replace damaged infrastructure from crashes, provide and maintain lighting, institute a “smart” tolling system (Such as at the Dartford Crossing of the Thames River
  • Cyclical maintenance such as resurfacing would need to undertaken
  • A mechanism would need to be established of what the handover procedure is when the lifecycle of the PPP ends

As can be seen this is a multi-disciplinary activity and the government would in effect expect the cradle to grave cycle to be undertaken by the successful bidding organisation. This generally means that the bidders are Joint Ventures (JV) (incorporated or unincorporated) that allow the main Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will hold the effective PPP contract to cover different competencies. In our example the SPV could be made up of a Finance House, Design Organisation, Main Contractor and Service Provider. However despite this make-up of the JV the actual works will still be sub-contracted even to a partner company. This is because the trend has been for these SPV’s to be sold off after a defined period. In effective the SPV is a shell because it owns no physical assets, employs few (if any staff) and exists to own the head contract for the PPP being contracted for.

Risk is obviously a major consideration in these projects because of their complexity and part of the PP process would be for government to transfer risk to the SPV and its agents. This could be done as follows:

  1. Risks that Government want to pass to the PPP SPV would be set out in the contract between the parties, or assumed by the SPV as applicable at law to its activities, such as liability for contamination during the construction phase
  2. As the SPV is project specific and does not own anything physically these risks and obligations are allocated to the various members of the supply chain where applicable or where this cannot happen will be left as a risk the SPV holds with some form mitigation to cover the financial consequences of the risk crystallizing. In effect the cost of this type of risk would be a component of one of the costs of the service
  3. During the construction phase – for example, liability for environmental pollution during construction phase the risks would be passed down by the SPV to a Contractor (who could further pass down the risk to Sub-Contractors) through “back-to-back” provisions in their contracts. In effect this means the Contractor agrees to perform all the defined services the SPV has agreed to provide to the government. The Contractors programme would be of equal length of shorter than the SPV, to build a road to the same specification required by the government in the head contract and to ensure the SPV would not be in breach of contract and subject to Liquidated and Ascertained Damages. (LAD’s) However there would be a “back to back” provision that would make the Contractor liable to the SPV for LAD’s at the same level in the event he was in breach of contract. In effect mitigating this risk for the SPV. The effective purpose would be to leave the allow the SPV neutral and the Contractor managing the risks involved in the construction of the asset
  4. When the road was complete and able to operate as a toll road, the SPV would operate the road and, again, these obligations would sub-contracted to an Operating Company using a similar methodology as detailed in the previous point. However it is possible that not all operation and maintenance risk could be passed to the Operating Company, two examples would be:
  • “Day-to-day” operation and maintenance could be passed on but obligations to undertake periodic, major maintenance, such as resurfacing for wear and tear may not be subcontracted at the start but remain an SPV risk, and contracted for separately when required (where defined in the head contract) or as due when there are sufficient funds and resources
  • “Change in Law” provision are a risk that cannot be evaluated at the start and that the Operating Company could not take on because of the length of the service contract. These risks are to a large extent under the control of government as the legislator. It is likely this would be a shared risk between government and the SPV and be dealt with as and when the risk crystallises following a change in law.
  1. The SPV has to finance the construction and initial operational activities, in effect the construction costs of the road would need to be paid for, and the money for this would need to be repaid from revenue generated by the road when it opened for traffic. The financial model would see the funding requirements should exactly match the SPV’s liabilities to pay its subcontractors. In effect a lean organisation

 Nature of risks with this PPP project

At the simple level the risks would be:

  • Can the road be built on time and to the required specification
  • Can the road be operated as the government requires
  • Will revenue generation be as expected as the financial model will be based on revenue assumptions

We could now expand these sub heading and detail some of the specific further risk that could be associated with each.

Built on time and to the required specification

  • Does the SPV have the necessary access to the site
  • What happens if ground conditions are different from expected
  • What happens if the law relating to road construction changes during the construction period
  • What happens if resources that the contractor is expecting to use are not available or in short supply
  • Who takes the risk that the road costs more to build than expected
  • What happens if a natural disaster occurs

Operated as the government requires

  • Does the SPV have the required access to the site
  • What happens if the law relating to road operation changes during the operating period
  • What happens if resources that the operator is expecting to use are not available or in short supply
  • Who takes the risk that the road costs more to operate than expected
  • What happens if a natural disaster occurs

Revenue generation expectations

  • Has the road been built to specification
  • Is the road being operated according to the Government’s requirements
  • Demand risk: will cars, lorries etc want to use the road
  • Payment risk: will cars, lorries etc want to pay to use the road
  • Are the operating costs, including finance cost fixed or variable

 These risks are typical but not exhaustive and each would require a provision in the contract to deal with. Some we have already looked at in other blog posts such as access (frustration) or natural disasters (Force Majeure). However Demand Risk could be dealt with where government makes up for any shortfall in notional demand. Of course this really means the taxpayer is obligated to pay the shortfall.

However in the alternative these risks would exists under traditional procurement where the accepted norm is to contract out the running.

As the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act [2009] outlawed Conditional Payment clauses, although this is the standard in PPP contracts where the SPV is created for the sole purpose of procuring the project has no assets and is not intended to have any liability unless it is first paid. Therefore PPP contracts have an Exclusion Order where Conditional Payment provisions will exist, although in the longer term this may need to be subject to further legislation. However because of the nature of the contracts and that they are bespoke, heavily negotiated forms this is a risk known to all parties at the outset.

The Exclusion Order means that provisions in first tier PPP sub-contracts which make payments in such contracts conditional upon obligations being performed in other contracts (such as providing certificates and ‘pay when paid’ clauses) will be effective.  However, ‘pay when paid’ clauses will, generally speaking, continue to be ineffective in accordance with the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act [2009]


PPP as a procurement model has been with us for over 20 years. It’s a simple and legal way for government to not have to declare obligations as government debt. In an overwhelming majority of cases where a dual analysis of PPP and traditional procurement has been evaluated, the assumptions are skewered to assist in ensuring the PPP option is the governments preferred procurement route. However when costs are well known and become public knowledge PPP proves itself to be poor value for money.

But the reality is it’s here to stay, even if when the current Conservative government runs out of steam and the electorate give another party the opportunity to govern, probably Labour once again once they have dispensed with their insane trip back to 1920’s state control under Jeremy Corbyn and his “brothers” and “sisters”. One thing is sure PPP will continue, it will just be called something else.

Maybe they could call it Stakeholder Hybrid Infrastructure Term Schemes.

The Construction Act (The amendments) Part II

In the previous post we reviewed the changes in the Construction Act as many companies still do not abide by them in their entirety. In this post we will consider these key changes in more detail.

 Contracts in writing

The most significant and far reaching effect of the 2009 Act is the removal of the requirement for construction contracts to be in writing and the Act applies to all contracts, be they wholly in writing, partly in writing and partly oral or wholly oral. This  will particularly affect Adjudication, although for Adjudicators Costs and the “slip rule” will need to be in writing to be relied on, if they are not then the Scheme will apply.

This makes it even more important that agreements (even where part standard conditions and part negotiated (oral) amendments are fully recorded in writing, even as a contract appendix. For the protection of both parties an “Entire Agreement Clause” where it is clear that the written document constitutes the whole agreement, should be included. This clause will not prevent disagreements,  but will significantly improve the position of a party arguing against an oral agreement.

Payment Issues

The amendment at Part 8 of the 2009 Act affect all Construction Contracts in England, Wales & Scotland when they came into force on 1 October 2011 in England & Wales and 1 November 2011 in Scotland. The primary aims of the amendments were to:

  • To make Adjudication more accessible to resolve disputes
  • To introduce clarity and certainty in relation to payment
  • To introduce a fair payment mechanism
  • To improve the right of Contractors to suspend their works for non-payment

The fundamental changes to the payment mechanism are:

  • Conditional Payment clauses are abolished
  • Changes to the Payment Notice regime, including a requirement for the Payee to pay the notified sum
  • Introducing new rules on Payless Notices
  • New rights for Contractors who suspend their services for non-payment
  • Allowing clauses to be included in Construction Contracts allowing the Employer to Withhold Payment without notice in the event of a contractors insolvency

We will now examine these fundamental changes and look at what the 1996 Act required and how this has been amended.

The Payment Notice

Previous position

In the 1996 Act an “adequate mechanism” for determining the sum due for payment and its payment date (known as the “Due Date”) was required. Further the payee had to give notice, not later than 5 days after the due date, detailing:

  • The amount of the payment made or proposed to be made
  • The basis on calculation of the amount

There was no effective sanction for failure to comply with the notice requirement and the Act was ambiguous if no payment notice was issued as there was no certainty to what sum was due under the contract.

2009 Act

 Construction contracts require a payment notice to be given for every payment provided for by the contract, not later than five days after the payment due date. The 2009 Act further defines the due date as “the date provided for by the contract as the date on which the payment is due”.

The contract must provide for the payment notice to be given by the payer, a “specified person” specified in or determined in accordance with the contract or by the payee itself. The notice must specify:

  • The sum considered to be due or to have been due at the payment due date in respect of the payment; and
  • The basis on which that sum is calculated.

Even if the sum considered due is zero, a payment notice must still be given in the required form.

Whilst not a sea change from the previous position they key changes that need to be considered are:

  • The payment notice no longer need to be issued by the Employer and  can be issued by specified persons such as the architect or engineer, or the payee may be required to issue the notice
  • The notice must simply state the sum which is “considered” due and the basis of calculation. This prevents duplication and takes into account any set off, abatement or any other deductions which may be withheld; and
  • A sanction has been introduced where there is a failure to issue a payment notice and a significant greater risk faced by parties that fail to issue payment notices. This risk is that the payee may now issue a notice in default stating the amount considered to be due and the basis for calculation.

If the deadline has passed and a payment notice has not been given, the payee may give the payer a payment notice – known as a ‘payee’s notice in default’ – at any time, stating the amount it considers due and the basis for calculation. If the contract provides for an application for payment and the application is made, that will automatically be regarded as a payee’s notice in default.

If a payee’s notice in default is issued, the final date for payment will be postponed by the length of time between when the payer or specified person should have given the payment notice and the date the payee gave its notice in default.

These changes are important because there is a positive obligation to pay the notified sum, which may be the value of an application under the contract

 Requirement to pay notified sum or less

 Previous position

A party to a construction contract could not withhold payment after the final date for payment of a sum due unless it has given an effective notice of intention to withhold payment (the “’withholding notice”).

To be effective the withholding notice needed to specify:

  • the amount to be withheld and the ground for withholding payment; or
  • Where there is more than one ground, each ground and the amount attributable to it.

The withholding notice had to given not later than the ‘prescribed period’ before the final date for payment, as agreed by the parties. Where a date had need been agreed then the default would be the requirement of The Scheme for Construction Contracts, making the period seven days.

Crucially a payment notice could act as a withholding notice, as long as it meets the requirements detailed above.

2009 Act

 The amendment in the 2009 Act creates a positive obligation on the payer to pay the ‘notified sum’, to the extent not already paid, on or before the final date for payment.

The previous regime of withholding notices has been abolished and the “notified sum” is now a key concept. This sum is the sum stated in the payment notice, which can be issued by the paying party, the specified third party or the payee. This notice can also be the notice in default and in almost all cases this will be the application for payment. If no payment notice is issued, there is a positive requirement to pay the sums set out in the application if the contract allows or requires the making of an application.

This change allows the paying party (or a specified person) to issue a notice of intention to pay less, known as the “Payless Notice” before the final date for payment or where specified in the contract the final date to issue a “Payless Notice. The “Payless Notice” must specify:

  • The sum that the person giving the notice considers to be due on the date the notice is served; and
  • The basis on how the sum is calculated.

However as with the “withholding notice” it must be given not later than the prescribed period before the final date for payment.

Another further change is in insolvency situations where the notified sum need not be made if:

  • The contract allows withholding of sums due in cases of insolvency: and
  • The insolvency occurs after the expiry of the time for giving the counter notice.

However this is not a statutory right and the contract must contain an appropriate clause to benefit from this provision.

 Suspension for non-payment

 Previous position

 Previously a party who is entitled to payment the right to suspend performance of its obligations under the contract if:

  • The sum due is not paid in full by the final date for payment; and
  • No effective notice to withhold payment has been given.

The party wishing to use this right has to give the other party at least seven days’ notice of its intention to suspend stating the ground or grounds for suspension. The right to suspend comes to an end when the other party pays the amount due in full. However there was no entitlement in the Act itself to recover your loss and expense where you suspended for non-payment. To have this right the contract needed to be amended to give effect to this entitlement.

Crucially any period of suspension under this right was disregarded when calculating the amount of time taken to complete the contract for the purposes of delay damages, so in effect could have the double whammy effect of putting you in breach of your obligation to complete by a particular dat or suffer Liquidated and Ascertained Damages.

2009 Act

 The right of suspension now arises where there is a requirement to pay the notified sum and that requirement has not been complied with.

The party wishing to suspend will now be able to suspend performance of any or all of its contractual obligations. This new entitlement to partial suspension of contractual obligations means that suspension is not limited to the actual construction obligations, but could go beyond and suspend the right to insure the works or suspension of works on only crucial areas or with certain sub-contractors, thereby negating programme delays if possible.

Where the right to suspend is exercised, the other party will be liable to pay a reasonable amount in respect of the costs and expenses reasonably incurred by the suspending party as a result of exercising this right and this is a Statutory Right enshrined in the Act.

Further, crucially the time period during which performance is suspended in pursuance of or in consequence of exercising the right of statutory suspension is disregarded when computing the time to complete work is any period.

 Conditional payment clauses

Previous position

 Under the 1996 Act provisions which make payment conditional upon receipt of payment from a third party (‘pay when paid’ clauses) are not prohibited and allowed payment to be conditional on other events, such as ‘pay when certified’ clauses, where payment is conditional on a certificate being issued under another contract.

This had the implication of effectively causing a Sub Contractor to become exposed where a dispute (that he was not party to) existed between the Employer and Contractor.

2009 Act

 Conditional Payment clauses are now invalid where they are conditional upon:

  • Performance of obligations under another contract; or
  • A decision by any person as to whether obligations under another contract have been performed.

This is to prevent a party up the line from relying on circumstances relating to its own contract to delay payment under a separate contract. By way of an example; if the Employer has not complied with its certification obligations to the Contractor, this cannot be used by the Contractor to deny payment to a Sub Contractor.

 There is however an exceptions in relation to management contracting or equivalent project relief arrangements, where the Contractor simply acts as a conduit. An example would be Public / Private Partnerships where a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company is created with the sole purpose of procuring the project. This SPV has no assets and is not intended to have any liability unless it is first paid.

Due to concerns that the 2009 amendments would outlaw equivalent project relief provisions in subcontracts in Public / Private Partnerships, orders have been made which protect certain of these arrangements in respect of contracts entered into after the act came into force.

The Orders means that provisions in Tier 1 first tier PFI Public / Private Partnerships Sub Contracts which make payments in such contracts conditional upon obligations being performed in other contracts (such as providing certificates and ‘pay when paid’ clauses) will be effective.

Although in reality this is a loophole that will have to re-visited in the future. We will also examine Public / Private Partnerships in greater detail at a later stage.

 

At a practical level in day to day operation of contracts the fundamental changes are:

  • Notices are crucial, bearing in mind that if there is no payment notice the other party can serve a notice of default or rely on its own application for payment;
  • The paying party will then have to pay whatever has been notified unless a valid notice of the intention to pay less has been served; and
  • Payment clauses have had to be redrafted to reflect the changes

Sadly in far too many cases the changes that have been effected have not been communicated effectively in large organisations and while the necessary clauses have been changed to make compliant contracts, for fear of strike down clauses, on a day to day basis many do not provide the necessary documentation.

Yet even more concerning is despite this, many still do not enforce their rights.