Tag: The Housing Grants

Third Party Rights


Despite being regarded as a profession and an industry, construction can generally be extremely slow to react to innovation and new ways of thinking, often lagging years behind

The Contract (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999 significantly reformed the common law, Doctrine of Privity which covers the relationship between parties to a contract and other parties or agents. At its most basic level, the rule is that a contract can neither give rights to, nor impose obligations on, anyone who is not a party to the original agreement, i.e. a “third party”.

With the Royal Assent of the Contract (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999 on 11th November 1999 a long standing and universally disliked element of the doctrine was reformed. This reform being to the second rule; which previously had the effect that a third party could not enforce a contract for which they had not provided consideration.

At a basic level the changed law allows third parties to enforce contract terms that benefit them in some way or which the contract empowers them to enforce. At the same time the legislation grants these third parties access to a range of remedies if the terms are breached. Further the legislation limits the extent in which a contract can be changed without the permission of an involved third party, while at the same time providing protection for the promisor and promisee in dispute situations with the third party, and allows parties to a contract to specifically exclude the protection afforded by the Act if they want to limit the involvement of third parties.

Despite this legislation being over 15 years old there are still parts of the industry that do not trust and want to limit third party rights. The Judgement in Parkwood Leisure Limited v Laing O’Rouke Wales and West in 2013 however tend to suggest that the industry should have been more sceptical of Collateral Warranties than 3rd Party rights per say. The judgement in this case tends to suggest the industry understanding of Collateral Warranties has been fundamentally flawed.

Background

The Defendant, Laing O’Rourke (The Contractor) was engaged by Orion Land and Leisure (Cardiff) Limited (The Employer) to carry out and complete the design and construction of a swimming pool and leisure centre under a standard Joint Contract Tribunal (JCT) Design and Build Contract

The Employer had entered into a lease with Parkwood Leisure Limited (A Third Party Facilities Management Company) to operate the pool on behalf of Orion Land and Leisure (Cardiff) Limited.

A key clause in the contract was that Laing O’Rourke were required to provide Collateral Warranties to a number of third parties, including Parkwood Leisure Limited. Before the works were completed Laing O’Rourke executed as a deed Collateral Warranties in favour of Parkwood Leisure Limited.

After the opening of the facility a number of defects occurred, mainly with the air handling units. Parkwood Leisure Limited claimed were construction and commissioning defects. Some of the alleged defects were subject to a Settlement Agreement, however issues continued to occur in relation to the air handing units. Parkwood Leisure Limited therefore believed they had no other effective remedy other than to claim against Laing O’Rourke’s Collateral Warranty.

Parkwood Leisure Limited therefore commenced under Civil Proceedings Rules (CPR) Part 8 an action to determine whether:

  • The Collateral Warranty amounted to a Construction Contract for the purposes of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, as if this was the case it would enable them to Adjudicate their claim
  • The claim being brought was compromised by the Settlement Agreement

The Collateral Warranty

The Collateral Warranty contained the following clause:

“The Contractor warrants, acknowledges and undertakes that:-

  1. It has carried out and shall carry out and complete the Works in accordance with the Contract;
  2. In the design of Works the Contractor has exercised and will continue to exercise all reasonable skill and care to be expected of an architect;
  3. It has complied and will continue to comply with the terms of regularly and diligently carry out its obligations under the Contract.”

The presiding Judge, Justice Akenhead after reviewing the definitions of “construction contract” and “construction operations” under Sections 104 and 105 of the Housing Grants, Construction & Regeneration Act 1996 and determined a Collateral Warranty is a construction contract. This was as the definitions were widely construed and the Act applies to all contracts related to the carrying out of “construction operations. It was specifically notes that the Collateral Warranty had the wording “carried out and shall complete the works” which gave an obligation to complete the construction works. It was further found that the Collateral Warranty was a subsidiary to the Building Contract.

However not all Collateral Warranties would be construed as a ”Construction Contract” and would be evaluated based on the specific wording of the Warranty. It was Justice Akenhead’s view that Collateral Warranties related to future performance could be construed as “Construction Contracts” in accordance with the Act.; whereas those against could be where the Contractor completes the works and provides a warranty post completion.

Therefore Adjudication was possible by Parkwood Leisure Limited as the Collateral Warranty amounted to a Construction Contract.

The Settlement Agreement

In relation to the Settlement Agreement is was found that there was scope to bring claims for matters that did not exist at the time the agreement. In effect this could have been avoided with clear and careful drafting and avoiding ambiguities.

 Is the Parkwood judgement correct?

In effect it was decided that a Collateral Warranty is a Construction Contract where:

  • There is an undertaking by the contractor to continue to comply with the underlying construction contract.
  • The Collateral Warranty is delivered before Practical Completion

However at law we don’t pick and choose what provisions apply and this judgement may yet have some non-considered consequences.

In effect then Section 108 (Adjudication) and Section 109 (Payment) should also be incorporated into Collateral Warranties.

Section 109 in particular could have severe consequences, although one would hope a common sense approach would be taken by the courts. This section provides that a party to a Construction Contract is entitled to periodic payment if the works last longer than 45 days. While it is true the parties are free to agree the amount due, frequency and circumstances to trigger these payments, crucially in their absence the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations will apply.

Collateral Warranties do not have Construction Act compliant payment provisions. This is primarily because the beneficiary of a Collateral Warranty is not expected to make payment, except where they have exercised their Step In rights. If the Collateral Warranty is a construction contract, then Section 109 will import The Scheme for Construction Contracts payment provisions which provides for the Contractor to be paid for the value of works done, less monies already paid. This could lead to the ludicrous situation where becomes directly liable to pay the Contractor.

Where does the Parkwood judgement leave 3rd Party Rights?

Beneficiary’s 3rd Party Rights derive directly from the Construction Contract and Sections 108 and 109 are applicable only to “a party to a construction contract”. A 3rd Party is not a party to the contract and therefore Section 108 and 109 of the 1996 Act cannot apply.

There is however no bar to 3rd parties right to Adjudicate should the parties wish. It can even be argued that sub-section 1(5) of the Third Party Rights Act 1999 extends the right to Adjudication to the beneficiary.

Where this judgement could sound the death knell of Collateral Warranties is where the contracting parties can exclude or extend the 3rd parties rights, the judgment appears to infer that all sections of the 1996 Act apply to Collateral Warranties, despite the potential absurdity as the Third Party Rights Act 1999 can only be used to confer rights, and not obligations.

Conclusion

The court’s decision was unexpected and resulted in greater scrutiny of Collateral Warranties with both Contractors and Consultants being loath to provide and even then that their application is limited to be retrospective only and limited. This has resulted in further complications for the negotiation and drafting of Collateral Warranties resulting in protracted and costly negotiations.

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).

Implied Terms in Contracts

With the United Kingdom having shaken up the selling of goods and services with the passing on the Consumer Rights Act [2015], it will be interesting to look at a case that was appealed to the Court of Appeal and see if anything different would or could happen under the new legislation.

The case of Lowe and Another v W Machell Joinery Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 794 shook up the law with regard to terms implied into contracts.

Backgrounds

Mr and Mrs Lowe converted a barn for residential use and placed a number of orders with W Machell Joinery Limited. Crucially this was done during a conversation with no formal written quotation. The element of this order that led to this case was a bespoke, elaborately designed wooden staircase costing £16,000 (Exclusive of Value Added Tax).

The Lowe’s paid for the staircase on 4th June 2009 and it was delivered to their property on 5th June 2009. However on 12th June 2009 the Lowe’s rejected the staircase by letter and had another staircase supplied by another company. It was claimed by the Lowe’s that they were entitled to reject the staircase because the verbal contract with W Machell Joinery Limited included the installation of the staircase and it should have been installed.

Mr and Mrs Lowe issued proceedings to recover the price of the staircase in July 2009.

Technology and Construction Court (TCC) decision

The trail was heard in July 2010 and by this time the Lowe’s relied on further reasons justifying their rejection of the staircase which included that had the staircase been installed, it would not have complied their Building Regulations.

At the TCC hearing in Leeds, Yorkshire the judge held that the original reasons for rejecting the goods were unjustified.  However, he further held that W Machell Joinery Limited were in breach of contract as the staircase did not comply with Building Regulations. However this breach was not sufficient justification for the Lowe’s to reject the staircase as he reasoned it would have been easy to modify the staircase in a number of ways to ensure compliance with Building Regulations.

The judge therefore dismissed the claim and you would expect this to be the end of the matter.

Court of Appeal

Mr and Mrs Lowe appealed against the decision to the Court of Appeal.

Here they raised an argument on appeal that was not fully relied upon in the original trial. This being that Section 14 of The Sale of Goods Act [1979] implied terms into the contract between the parties which W Machell Joinery Limited subsequently breached entitling the Lowes to reject the staircase.

Section 14(2) of the Act provided that where goods are sold by a seller in the course of a business transaction there is an implied term that the goods are of satisfactory quality.

Section 14(3) provided that when goods are sold by a seller in the course of a business transaction where the buyer makes the seller aware that the goods have a particular purpose, a term is implied that the goods are fit for the purpose for which they have been supplied.

Therefore the Lowe’s also argued the term should be implied into the contract between the parties that the staircase would comply with the relevant Building Regulations and British Standards.

Court of Appeal Decision

The Court of Appeal found that there was a breach of contract and overturned the decision handed down in the TCC where he found this breach entitled the Lowes to reject the staircase.

The Judge found that the breach of the contract was of the implied terms that the staircase had to be of satisfactory quality and, because J Machell Joinery Limited was aware that the barn was to be converted to residential use, it needed to be fit for purpose as required by the Act.

The Court found “fit for purpose” included compliance with Building Regulations and therefore there was an implied term that the staircase would comply with the relevant Building Regulations and British Standards, albeit under cover of “fit for purpose”.

While the only way to see if this would hold true under the Consumer Rights Act [2015] as the legislation still requires these tests, it is highly likely a similar case would result in the same outcome.

Is this fair?

W Machell Joinery Limited contracted with the Lowes to supply a staircase that did not comply with Building Regulations. Further W Machell Joinery was not responsible for obtaining Building Regulation approval for the staircase.  Yet to show how obtuse the law can be, if W Machell Joinery Limited changed the specification of the staircase to be compliant with Building Regulations, this would not be compliant with the design requested by the Lowes. Therefore either way, J Machell Joinery Limited would be in breach of contract.

The solution to this anomaly from the Court of Appeal to avoid this situation was that W Machell Joinery Limited should have made the Lowe’s aware the staircase was not compliant with Building Regulations before it had been manufactured.  The Lowe’s would have had the choice to continue with the design and risk the staircase not complying with Building Regulations, or to alter the design to make it compliant.

Implied terms generally

From a construction industry perspective both The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act [1996] as amended by The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act [2009] and The Supply of Goods and Services Act [1982] as superseded by the Consumer Rights Act [2015] imply terms into construction contracts.

Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996

This Act implied terms which included:

  • Entitlement to stage payments
  • Limit to right to withhold payment
  • The right to refer disputes to adjudication
  • Mechanism for payment, including payment date and notice of amount
  • Prohibiting conditional payment provisions
  • Right to suspend for non-performance

If the above provisions were not included in a construction contract, the Scheme for Construction Contracts applies, in effect being the implied terms.

 Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 
This Act implied terms that:

  • Service will be carried out with reasonable care and skill
  • Supplier will carry out the service within a reasonable time
  • Supplier will be paid a reasonable charge

These are still required under the Consumer Rights Act [2015].

Further the courts are empowered to also imply terms into contracts, and these fall into two categories:

  1. Where a contract has been entered into between the parties, to make the contract work successfully a term needs to be implied into the contract.  For example, the language may be ambiguous and require clarifying; and
  2. In construction contracts there are certain usual terms that are implied unless the parties wish to exclude or change these implied terms.  An examples of these implied terms for would be that the parties will co-operate with each other, and that the parties will not prevent completion from taking place.

Can you prevent the Lowe v W Machell Joinery Limited happening?

The primary issue that allowed the dispute to reach the conclusion it did was that no written contract or terms of agreement existed between the parties, setting out the contract terms and what was to be delivered.

Where there is supply or manufacture and supply of high value items you should always draft a contract which details the obligations and liabilities of each party.

This will enable both parties to understanding their duties and obligations and hopefully avoid disputes arising in the future.

Further this will prevent terms being implied into contracts which were not the parties’ intentions at the time the contract was made. In reality the material fact there was no written document allowed the Lowe’s to have the court rule in their favour on matters that were unforeseen at the time of agreement to supply the staircase.

Ansell Murray Limited has experience of drafting bespoke contracts as well as ensuring standard forms are correctly assembled.

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.

The Construction Act (The amendments)

Previous postings of Heina v Beck & Enforcement of Adjudication Decisions as a result of Brown v Complete Building Solutions have primarily revolved around two pieces of Primary Legislation, these being The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. In effect the 2009 act has been primarily an updating of the previous legislation to clarify where over time the law has been seen to be deficient. We should therefore look at the material changes that took place.

 As these two pieces of legislation, where they apply to construction activities first define what would be a Construction Contract in accordance with 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.

This 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 major changes of the 2009 Act

The major changes took effect with after amendments were made to The Scheme for Construction Contracts in 2011 and apply to contracts entered into after this.

The table below explains the key changes that were made to the 1996 Act:

CHANGE POINTS TO NOTE

 

 

Contracts in writing no longer required

Section 107 of the 1996 Act will be repealed.

The payment and adjudication provisions of the 1996 Act will now apply to all construction contracts, whether written, oral or a mixture of both.

The parties will still have to have a written adjudication clause in their contract that complies with section 108 of the 1996 Act. If they do not, the Scheme will apply.

Adjudication may be used more widely but it is likely that more time will be taken up in future adjudications arguing about what the terms of the contract are.

Ability to award costs restricted

Parties will not be able to agree in advance who will pay the costs of Adjudication.

The adjudicator also cannot be given the power to award legal costs.

 

 

 

Under the new section 108A, only two types of costs agreement will be effective:

1) An agreement in writing in the construction contract which gives the adjudicator power to split liability for the adjudicator’s own fees and expenses between the parties; and

2) An agreement on costs made in writing between the parties after the notice of adjudication is served.

 

New slip rule

Under new section 108(3A), construction contracts will have to contain a provision in writing allowing the adjudicator to correct clerical or typographical errors in his decision, arising by accident or omission.

 

The Act is silent on how long an adjudicator will have to make corrections. Parties would be wise to agree a timescale in their contract.

Notably, the Adjudicator will be permitted but not compelled to make corrections and his ability to do so will be limited. He is unlikely to be able to correct factual or reasoning errors or errors of judgement.

Pay when certified clauses banned

‘Pay when certified’ clauses will be banned under new section 110(1A), except where the construction contract is an agreement for someone else to carry out construction operations and payment is conditional on that other person performing their obligations.

 

 

 

 

The exception to section 110(1A) will mean that management contracts will not be outlawed.

Equivalent project relief clauses in Public / Private Partnership contracts, which normally contain conditional payment arrangements, may have to be redrafted.

Payers may try to find other mechanisms to minimise the effect of this, such as by inserting a longer payment period into the subcontract than the period in the main contract.

‘Pay when paid’ provisions will still be ineffective under section 113, except where there is an upstream insolvency.

Due date can’t be determined by notice

Under new section 110(1D), making the due date dependent on the payer giving a payment notice will be banned.

This is not an adequate mechanism for determining when payments become due.

If there is such a clause in the contract, it will be ineffective and the Scheme will apply.

New payment notices

The payment notice provisions of the 1996 Act will be replaced.

Under new section 110A, a payment notice will have to be given not later than five days after the payment due date.

The construction contract may provide for the payer (person paying), the payee (person receiving payment) or another specified person to give this notice.

The payment notice must be issued, even where the amount due is thought to be zero.

To be valid, the notice must state the sum that the person giving the notice considers to be due (or to have been due at the payment date) and the basis on which that sum is calculated.

Where a specified person gives the notice, it may state the sum that either the specified person or the payer considers to be due.

If the payer fails to serve a valid payment notice but the payee has already submitted an application for payment, the amount set out in the application will become due. Payers should therefore be careful to serve their payment notices on time.

New payment default notices

Under section 110B, where the payer (or a specified person) is supposed to but has failed to issue a valid payment notice, the payee may serve a ‘payment default notice’.

Where a valid payment default notice is given, the final date for payment of the notified sum will be postponed by the number of days that it took the payee to issue the payment default notice after the payer failed to issue the payment notice.

The payment default notice must state the sum that the payee considers to be due and the basis on which it is calculated.

Payment default notices should be served promptly, to minimise any delay to the final date for payment and to ensure that suspension rights can be exercised if payment is not made.

A payment default notice cannot be served if the contract provides for the payee to serve the payment notice.

Withholding notices replaced by “pay less” notices

The withholding notice provisions of the 1996 Act are to be replaced.

Under new section 111, the notified sum (the amount specified in a valid payment notice or payment default notice) must be paid on or before the final date for payment, unless the payer (or a specified person) serves a valid ‘pay less notice’.

Money can still be withheld without a ‘pay less notice’, if the payee becomes insolvent after the period for issuing the notice has expired.

A “Pay Less otice” must state the payer’s intention to pay less than the notified sum. It must be served not later than the prescribed period before the final date for payment.

It must specify the sum that the payer considers to be due on the date the notice is served (even if that is zero) and the basis on which that is calculated.

A ‘pay less notice’ cannot be served before a payment notice or a payment default notice has been served.

 

Enhanced rights on suspension

Where the payee is entitled to suspend performance under section 112 of the 1996 Act, their rights will be enhanced.

The payee will:

1) be able to suspend their obligations in whole or in part;

2) be entitled to be paid the reasonable costs and expenses associated with the suspension; and

3) be entitled to an extension of time which includes time required to remobilise.

Enhanced compensation rights may encourage parties to use this remedy.

Suspension may now be seen as an even more effective way of securing payment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the next post we will have a look at these changes in more detail and what should be included to ensure compliance with and protection from changes from that seek to dilute the effectiveness of the changes.

 

Ansell Murray Limited Commercial Support

In the previous post we reviewed the outline of how the construction industry in the United Kingdom treats Sub Contractors and Sub-Sub Contractors. In this post we will examine how the little guy can strike back by just using the available rules, regulations and legislation together with their own Sub contracted commercial support.

Ansell Murray Limited as a boutique Consultancy is able to offer commercial advice and support at any time of the life cycle of the works as well as, as much or little support as is required. A new company may need robust systems to capture what they are doing and more mature business may be expanding on taking on works where not only the contract to be entered into is more complex and onerous but may require more compliance.

In the following sections we will set out typical functions that can be undertaken.

Pre Contract Advice / Support

As the title implies these are activities that take place prior to a contract being awarded and can even be in support of a tender and include:

  • Build up of “Actual Cost” rates for Labour, Plant and Materials
  • Preliminaries Build up and Requirements
  • Estimating
  • Review of proposed form and contract and schedule of amendments
  • Design implications (Professional Indemnity & Warranty requirements)
  • Condition Precedents and their potential Implications
  • Main Contract programme requirements and support
  • Notice Service requirements
  • Specific recurring requirements of the contract

Of course nothing is going to stop “subby bashing,” however the risk of payment problems can also be reduced by ensuring that a fair contract and contract procedures are in place.

Ideally, you should incorporate your own Terms & Conditions of business into any order which can be done by careful submission prior to commencing work, making the last document on file the contract.  If this is achieved it can only be trumped by the later signing of a formal contract, which does not have to be done before payment is to be made, such malpractice is outlawed by the Construction Acts.

Ansell Murray Limited are well placed to assist in this key pre contract activity to ensure many of the terms in the contract cannot be turned into disastrous “subby bashing” tools.

Contract period Advice / Support

During the period of construction works the works can either run smoothly with little or no real change in what has been contracted for and at the other extreme can be delayed and disrupted, subject to dispute. Ansell Murray Limited to provide commercial and project management support at both ends of the spectrum as well as the eventualities in between.

  • Application for Payment support, including dealing with all contractual reporting requirements
  • Management of Change Control, be these Variations or Compensation Events
  • Payless Notice support
  • Robust support of Variation / Compensation Event entitlements
  • Robust support against Contra Charges for additional contractor labour
  • Claim of Compensation and associated interest for Late Payment
  • Invoicing and Payroll (Employee’s and Sub Contractors)
  • Management of supply chain commercially, including ensuring back to back contract provisions and reporting to the supply chain
  • Notice service requirements
  • Insurance liability
  • Programme management, including period updates

In the event Ansell Murray Limited had been utilised during the Pre-Contract phase our primary objectives are to ensure the following are as favourable as possible to the Sub Contractor:

  • Onerous payment periods and lengthy due dates are removed and are at worst in line with legislation defaults
  • Retention, Liquidated and Ascertained Damages, Main Contractor Discount advice and support
  • Letters of intent where issued and being subject to Contract
  • Condition precedents (Extension of Time, Loss & Expense entitlements and Practical Completion)
  • Unrealistic programmes, time requirements & time essence clauses
  • Ensure “Pay when paid” or “Pay when certified” clauses are removed and are in line with current legislation
  • Termination and Suspension rights
  • Set off clauses are removed
  • Onerous adjudication clauses are removed and are in line with The Scheme for Construction Contracts.
  • Insolvency of the Employer and or Contractor advise and support

During the construction phase there is often a false belief that there is nothing that can be done about Contractors entering into contracts and then ignoring them, to the detriment of the Sub Contractor undertaking the work.

Because in large organisations people effectively learn how to mechanically undertake their day to day job, many do not understand their duties and obligations under the contract that they are effectively administrating. In effect the rules that protects a Sub Contractor from bad practices

Often the paying parties do not understand the Payment Notice requirements and that their timing and content are critical. As well as this they fail to recognise the power of payment applications becoming the sum due where the rules of assessment and certification are not followed. In effect your payment application becomes the sum due. If the paying party wants to contest this it must prove its case in later proceedings, which if made up and is not supported by contemporaneous evidence will be impossible.

Post Contract Advice / Support

Often a Sub Contractor may provide the works in accordance with the contract, yet the Contractor regularly and consistently under values your works. This is often a precursor to a robust Final Account negotiation where the Contractors seeks to maintain his margin on the project by using your monies. The larger the amount due as a Final Account settlement and the more chance the Contractor will use delay tactics to try and struck the best deal for the Contractor, often to the detriment of the Sub Contractor.

And what can you do? Your works are complete, often you will have made all the payments due to your supply chain, but you need the cash flow to fund the next project.

Contractors know this and will then use this to drive down the agreed final value.

But it does not need to be like this. Ansell Murray Limited can be engaged at Final Account stage purely to ensure that you are paid what you are owed together with any agreement on the amounts of effective free money you want to give the contractor.

This should only be necessary where the objectives are clear that the Contractor is seeking a significant reduction in the final cost he will pay. For the sake of the industry as a whole these companies should be challenged to stop their behaviour for the greater good of all Tier 2 / 3 contractors.

By engaging Ansell Murray Limited during the construction phase our clear objectives are to ensure the value that has been earned by your efforts on site are paid in that period and in effect to make the final account negotiation about the final 5% of the contract value.

Claims & Dispute Advice / Support

Sometimes contracts simply do not happen as planned and if you are the innocent party and have suffered loss the contract between the parties will allow you to be compensated for this. Ansell Murray Limited can provide assistance in setting out contractual claims generally around Loss & Expense and Extension of Time claims.

The United Kingdom construction industry offers its customers great flexibility. Many construction project are not fully designed when they commence and can progress with the design continuing in the background. This means changes in scope are inevitable and change means a revision in price being charged to the Employer and usually the programme. In this environment disputes are ordinary and common place, so too is a settlement that both parties can accept. However this is often dependent on robustness of the change and associated detail in the pricing and impact on the programme that is put forward. If this is not efficiently managed it reduces itself and the project to conflict which can affect overall quality, time and health & safety. Ansell Murray Limited can manage and handle these claim processes to ensure they do not result in a larger dispute. This is not limited to large scale industrial and commercial construction and civil engineering but can be something as small as a fit out of a local shop.

However sometimes the claim ends up as a dispute where both parties believe their stance is correct and the only method to resolve the claim will be through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as usually the legal option in the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) is prohibitively expensive.

On 1st May 1998 the construction industry took a great stride into the future with the introduction of a statutory right to have a dispute determined by Adjudication. In the subsequent 19 years this process has become entrenched as a relatively cost effective way of having a dispute determined in 28 days. It is a decision which is further binding and can only be overturned, revised or confirmed in Arbitration (if the contract contains an Arbitration clause) or in litigation. Please see previous posts in relation to the mechanism of Adjudication at this link: https://ansellmurray.wordpress.com/tag/adjudication/

Ansell Murray Limited offers support in Adjudication whether you are the party commencing Adjudication [The Referring Party) or to assist in defending where you have been referred to Adjudication (The Responding Party).

Can a party commence its own Adjudication without using a company such as Ansell Murray Limited? The short answer is “Yes” and the slightly longer answer is “It’s not advisable.”

An Adjudication is an argument giving each party a reasonable opportunity of putting his case forward and rebutting the case put by the other party to the contract, with the watchword being fairness.

Why is “It’s not advisable?”

The Adjudicator does not make a case for either party or find the evidence to undermine a party’s case. The role is purely to make a Determination based on facts, evidence, rights and duties in the contract and at law. If an adjudicator investigates at all, it will be to clarify points of fact or law in the party’s case. Therefore it is vital that in preparation of a Referral Notice as the party commencing an Adjudication or in the Response where contesting that the facts are laid out clearly and concisely for the Adjudicator, even where appropriate using legal precedent as a justification of an argument. In reality where there are no legal complexities to be considered the Adjudicator will have little time to do much more than simply make his Determination based on the written arguments of each side.

Of course this entire process is not one-sided and only requires a specialist consultancy such as Ansell Murray Limited. As the real strength (or weakness) of a case for a simple claim or even Adjudication is based on the golden rule or “Records, Records, Records.” These records are your evidence to prove your claim or to disprove a claim made against you. For a claim to be successful it demands good evidence.

Systematic keeping of all site correspondence, instructions, meeting minutes, record photographs (which with modern technology are date stamped), correspondence in writing and electronic mails, site diaries and site resource record sheets. This is also easily verified by the use of technology such as biometric scanners. These are the types of records that help back up a successful claim.

As stated at the start of this post, as a boutique consultancy, Ansell Murray Limited can be your Estimator, Surveyor, Programme Manager, Project Manager, Commercial Manager or Commercial Director. The name on the badge may be slightly different to your organisations name, but we are there to integrate as much or as little into your organisation as you want.

Go to www.ansellmurray.com to view our website and make contact.