Building Work Running Late Or Delayed

Delays are inherent throughout the building and construction industry and can create major difficulties in terms of project performance and client satisfaction. Delays can be for number of factors such as the unpredictable weather, unreliable sub-contractors, budget shortage or overrun due to design errors, variation to scope of work or any unexpected changes. To maximise your success in dealing with claims for delay and extension of time it is vital that action is taken early.

Sometimes a contract will fix the time that a service must be completed by. If the time has not been fixed then the service must be completed ‘within a reasonable time’. What is reasonable usually depends on the facts of the contract.

A homeowner embarking on residential building works will usually enter into a building contract with a builder before the works are carried out at the property. It is important that the builder understands the obligations under the standard form contract which will record the date when the work commences and to be completed by a certain date. If this is a term of your contract your builder should stick to it. If a home owner is likely to suffer damages in the event of the work being completed late then it is important to ensure that there be a pre-agreed rate of ‘liquidated damages’ stated in the contract.

If the time for performance is not fixed by the contract then under the CRA 2015 then the builder has a statutory duty to perform the work within a “reasonable period of time”. If they fail to complete the work on time or they take longer than is reasonable, you could (may) have a claim against the builder for financial losses suffered as a result of the delay.

Be aware that if extra work is required then the completion date will need to be extended to accommodate the additional work. The contract will also need to set out a mechanism to show how the extra time is calculated. This is an important detail to consider if the project will require the homeowner to be placed in rented accommodation and experience additional rental costs or may even have to find alternative accommodation.

Top Tip: It is possible to extend the closing date to avoid paying for your current accommodation and your unfinished home at the same time.
Top Tip: If your builder is taking too long, you may want to consider taking them off the job and getting someone else to finish it. However, unless you had already agreed on concrete deadlines which they then missed, cancelling their service may mean that you still have to pay them the agreed amount, even if they did not do the work.

You can set deadlines after the work has already been agreed on. This is known as “making time of the essence”. In order to do this, you need to write a letter to the builder stating that you are making time of the essence and setting out any start or finish dates you have planned. These must be reasonable for the amount of work that is to be done.

If, having made time of the essence, the builder fails to meet the deadlines you have set; a further and final deadline should be set. In the event that future deadlines are also set it may be possible to bring the contract to an end or can cancel their service without penalty. It is important to ensure that your deadline is reasonable for the amount of work to be done; however, as the builder may otherwise disagree with your timescale and argue that you are in breach of contract.

You will not have to pay for any work they did not do, but anything which is already complete must still be paid for. You can also claim compensation from the builder for any expenses you incurred due to their failure to complete the work on time, and, if you hire a new builder to finish the job and they charge more, you may be able to claim this additional cost back from the first builder.

Top Tip: It is useful to have construction project management software which is available to keep track of the important metrics that help you make the right adjustments when you fall behind schedule.

Altion Law are specialists at advising and representing parties in a Contractual Dispute relating to a Construction Project.  If you would like to have a confidential discussion with a member of our team, please complete our Contact Us Form, and we will call you back at a time that is suitable for you or you can contact us directly on 01908 414990.

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