The Importance of a Contract in Building Disputes
Minor home improvement works such as simple cosmetic updates may not always require a formal written contract between a property owner and contractor. However, more complex building or renovation works involving structural alterations and larger sums of money often benefit from a contract, to help avoid building disputes. Many homeowners invest in making such alterations to maximise the value of their property, and like other major investments, it is worthwhile to protect it in case something goes wrong.
What Should A Building Contract Cover?
A standard form of building contract provides a legally binding framework under which the works take place. Standard forms of contract are developed by industry experts based on historically practical and effective contract provisions, tailored to suit an increasingly diverse range of projects. Typically, a contract will cover:
- payment scheduling
- contractual responsibilities
- consideration of statutory compliance
- means of resolving disputes should they arise
Standard Building Contracts
There are now standard forms of contract for homeowner works available from the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The Home Owner family of contracts by JCT offers two standard forms of contract for home owner works; one where the home owner will oversee the works themselves and one where the home owner has appointed a consultant to oversee the works. RIBA offer one type of standard form, the Domestic Building Contract, which can be administered by a professional contract administrator or architect, or by the homeowner if the works are relatively simple.
One of the major advantages to having such a contract in place is the prescribed means for timely resolution of disputes. The standard forms of contract mentioned above contain default express provisions for the right of the parties to refer disputes to adjudication, albeit with slight variations. These adjudication options are particularly useful in residential homeowner works, as the statutory adjudication provisions of the Construction Act 1996 do not apply to construction contracts with a residential occupier, nor do the supplemental statutory adjudication provisions under the later Scheme for Construction Contracts 1998.
The standard form contract documents referenced above are available to purchase as blank copies from the JCT and RIBA websites and are priced at around £40 each, making them very inexpensive for securing contractual clarity and cost-effective dispute resolution.
Building Contract Dispute Resolution
Both JCT and RIBA families of homeowner/domestic contracts set out clear procedures for dispute resolution and in any case, if adjudication takes place, the adjudicator is required to give a decision on the dispute within 21 days.
An adjudicator’s decision will be contractually binding unless and until a court judgment to the contrary is obtained by either party. So whilst the decision does not prevent either party from contesting and referring it to a higher jurisdiction, it requires the parties to remedy issues which may otherwise impact the programme and timely progression of works. Where there are disagreements that can’t be resolved, our building and property dispute solicitors in Buckinghamshire can help.
For further information about dispute resolution in either residential property building works or commercial development projects, contact our Dispute Resolution Department at Lennons Solicitors. Talk to our experienced lawyers in Chesham, Amersham and Beaconsfield today on 01494 773377 or email us at [email protected]
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