Else’s expert construction solicitors in Burton, answer the question “How do I avoid a construction dispute?”.
Think of the even the smallest construction project you’ve been involved in recently. How many different parties were involved? There may have been multiple investors, architects, surveyors, funders, landowners, developers and many other professionals.
They are all focused on two key resources; time and money.
Because time is so valuable, many elements of a project have specified completion dates. Often, prices are conditional on things happening within a pre-determined period, unless something unforeseen or unusual happens.
Do you know how many arguments there are over whether something is ‘unforeseen’ or ‘unusual’? A lot!
A Human Element At The Centre
When something happens to cause a project to take longer than planned, many different parties may claim that they need more money. This could be due to missed completion dates or the cost of extra work.
Very often, there is a human element at the centre of the cause. It could be anything from a design error, to failure to give correct instructions, to bad workmanship or perhaps a company in the chain going bust. Either way, there is the opportunity for blame.
No wonder the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) exists.
Involving Solicitors Early – A Necessary Cost
A significant number of construction contracts end up being disputed in the TCC. However, the perception of many in the industry seems to be that seeking professional advice from an expert construction solicitor at an early stage is an unnecessary cost.
Most people do not get solicitors involved until a dispute has begun. But you could save a lot of time and money if you have the right contract in place at the beginning of the project.
A three-day trial at the TCC could easily cost between £150,000 to £200,000. The figures can often be much higher than that.
What’s more, the losing party will likely incur costs that approach double that amount.
With that in mind, does it become more interesting to find out what experienced construction solicitors can do to reduce the risk of dispute and litigation? They can also increase your chances of winning should a dispute occur.
How We Can Help
Else’s specialist construction solicitors can assist you at every stage of a project. These break down to:
1. The Pre-Construction, Pre-Contract Stage
2. The Construction And Project Phase
3. The Post-Construction, Post-Project Stage
Most disputes arise in the third stage, but they tend to have their roots in the first two.
Pre-Construction, Pre-Contract Stage
The key to avoiding disputes is getting the contract and its terms right, both from the point of view of the employing party and the party carrying out the work.
We can advise on creating or amending key terms of a contract, or draft the entire contract. We can also highlight particular areas of risk based on our experience of what we’ve seen happen in many cases before.
One thing that is absolutely vital is that all staff involved in the implementation of a contract need to be fully aware of what is required, both from a contractual and practical point of view.
Construction And Project Phase
During the construction phase many things can occur that can come back to bite you at a later date.
If there is one piece of advice we can give you in this blog, it is to keep proper records during the construction phase. Time-and-time-again we have seen that the companies that win disputes are the ones who keep extensive records.
These include site diaries, photographs, orders, invoices, details of defects etc. Else can help advise on what records to keep and how to put into place a procedure to make sure it all happens.
You also need to be sure that on-site staff are vigilant and report any issues, such as complaints, straight away. The sooner we are consulted about a potential issue, the more likely we are to be able to help you resolve it in a way that protects your interests.
As we mentioned earlier, this is the point at which most disputes arise.
There are many techniques and methods that can be used to deal with or resolve a potential dispute. Going all the way to court is the most expensive. However, declaring an intention to start court proceedings, or actually initiating them, is often the only way to put pressure on another party and persuade them to reach a sensible settlement.
We always try to avoid court by working to resolve issues as early as possible through negotiation, or via mediation in which an independent person facilities the discussions.
Should it become necessary, there is a more formal dispute process called Adjudication. This is very efficient, with decisions usually reached within four to six weeks. However, adjudicators do not have the power to force the losing side to pay the other side’s legal and professional costs.
Another option is Arbitration. It is run in a similar way to a court process. However, the judgement is made by an arbitrator who has specialist industry expertise in the area relevant to the dispute.
As your construction solicitors, we’ll be pleased to have an initial conversation to see how we can help you. For more information please contact us on 01283 526200. Alternatively, you can send us a message and we will get in touch at a time that suits you.