The construction industry faces a range of ever more complex regulations, legislation and red tape that make disputes, infringements, and breaches almost commonplace.
According to official figures, 2016 saw the value of the British construction industry rise to the record level of £99,266 million - so the stakes are high!
Whether designing, developing, or building shopping centres, office blocks, housing, or anything else, no party involved in a construction project is protected from the threat of legal action should something not go as planned, or a mistake or accident occur. That’s where an experienced solicitor is invaluable.
To get help resolving disputes efficiently guided by a legal professional, contact the experts at First4Lawyers. We can even help with the legal side of construction, ensuring all the proper procedures and paperwork are followed and completed.
Will the contract protect my interests when a dispute arises?
Before you invest time and money in pursuing or defending a claim, it would be advisable to check the terms of your contract. It is worth bearing in mind the following points:
- A contract does not have to be in writing to be binding
In fact, a contract is formed in the offer and acceptance. To be binding there must be agreement between the parties on certain essentials.
However, the difficulty with a verbal contract (partial or otherwise), lies in proving the terms which have been agreed.
- An unsigned contract, or one signed by only one party is still binding
This is the case as long as the terms are agreed by all parties. However, a contract signed by both (or all) parties has some benefits. For example, it ensures that there is no disagreement on any of the terms of the contract. No party will have a case for a dispute by saying simply that they did not read the contract.
Disputes may arise if the meanings of specific terms within a contract are vague, or open to interpretation.
Can I claim loss and expense even if there is no such clause in the contract?
No. You may be able to claim damages for breach of contract if you receive vital information late, if another party gives you incorrect information, or if there are delays.
However, your ability to make such claims will depend upon whether the contract includes terms (express or implied) related to your loss.
To claim damages for issues not stated in a contract, there are various legal hurdles you will need to overcome.
What are the time limits on disputes?
Time limits under construction contracts usually expire after six years under a simple contract, and 12 years in the case of a deed.
In instances of project delay and payment issues, disagreements could arise during or just after the construction works are complete. In the case of defective works, these can either be latent (concealed or not easily discoverable) or patent (obvious upon inspection).
While disputes about patent defects normally arise quickly, latent defects may not become apparent for many years.
Is it possible to resolve a dispute without formal proceedings?
This depends on the context and nature of the issues at hand. You and the other parties may be able to reach an agreement without taking the issue to the courts.
Your first step may be to attempt negotiations with other the parties at project team or senior management level.
However, if the dispute has becomes serious (or looks like it may do so), it is important to know the procedure laid out in the contract. Most contracts will give the parties the right to proceed with adjudication at any time.
In many cases, the contract will also include one or more of the relevant escalation procedures, with reference to mediation, litigation, expert determination, or arbitration. It is important to note that these procedures follow different timescales and rules.
What evidence will I need to support my case?
If you suspect that a disagreement is likely to escalate, then it would be worth finding out what evidence you have to support your case before proceedings start. In fact, you may need the help of a solicitor to properly weigh the strength of your argument.
Knowing the strength of the proof you have to back up your side of the story will in turn allow you to assess the overall strength of your case.
In civil proceedings, such as arbitration, adjudication and litigation, you usually only need to prove your case on the ‘balance of probabilities’. However, while you may be right in principle, this may not be much use to you in legal terms without concrete proof of your conduct or workmanship.
What happens if the dispute ends up in court?
If this happens, all parties must disclose the documents they are relying on to support their case. Exceptions to this rule will occur if the documents in question attract privilege. These are usually documents which pass between you and your solicitors, or which were created after legal proceedings began.
I need legal advice with regard to construction issues – what should I do?
The laws surrounding construction are incredibly intricate. With this in mind, we recommend that you seek legal advice as the most efficient way to resolve any issues.
We are here to protect you from disputes when they arise, and indeed before they occur. If you are embarking on a new construction project, the experts at First4Lawyers can advise you on the various precedents in construction case law, or even just help to make sure the legal side of the building process is fully completed.
For specialist advice from our property solicitors, call the First4Lawyers advisors, or fill out the Request a Callback form at the top of the screen.