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RCI July 2017

LEGAL MATTERS Working with a solicitor: should you give it some thought? Most contractors are far too busy to give much thought to solicitors. They usually only appear on the radar when something has gone wrong. At that time a hasty call is made to the family solicitor who may struggle to understand the complexities of a building sub-contract having only rarely, if ever, advised on them previously and who is not likely to be aware of important changes to the law relating to construction. Sub-contractors should consider how a solicitor specialising in construction work could assist their business and save them money by avoiding legal problems. Choose your advisor Construction work is inundated with all sorts of advisors. There are many consultants, claims advisors and others willing to get involved with other people’s problems. Solicitors are different in that they are highly regulated, insured and able to conduct litigation before the courts. They also have legal training which provides an important perspective sometimes missing from other non legally qualified advisors. Not all solicitors have expertise in construction matters. Contractors should seek out firms that offer specialist construction advice. Large city firms may not be for everyone and there are a number of smaller practices offering specialist construction advice and whose costs are likely to be lower than large city firms. In the beginning... The starting point for all works is the contract. It is important that every contractor has a contract for its works. Although a contract does not have to be in writing to bind a party, clearly it is always going to be easier to prove what was agreed between parties if the agreement is in writing. The contract need not be a large document but it should set out the basic terms relating to the works – how much, how long, how is payment going to be made etc. If your Employer presents you with a large contract to sign make sure that you understand its contents. A solicitor can provide a short report on the contract for you. This need not cost a great deal but will set out the contract terms, advise you on any suggested changes to those terms and point out issues that could cause you difficulties 028 JULY 2017 RCIMAG.COM CE Law is a specialist firm advising only on construction matters. In this article David Jackson, a solicitor for over 30 years, sets out how contractors can work with solicitors to ensure that they contract on terms they understand and are prepared for any difficulties that may arise during a contract in the future. The report will deal with what notices are to be served in the event of delay and disruption to the works etc. to ensure that you know when to serve such notices and how they are to be served, plus the payment terms in the contract and when and how applications for payment are to be made. You will be able to consult the report throughout the project to ensure that you meet the contract requirements and do not fall foul of technicalities in the contract. During the works If things do start to go wrong during a job speak to a solicitor. They can advise on any notices you should give to protect your position and what steps you should take to ensure that you can demonstrate your compliance with the contract. Payment problems The failure to pay interim applications or the short payment of interim applications can cause severe difficulties. It may be possible to take steps to increase sums received by way of interim payments without ending the contract and at modest expense. Speak to a solicitor and he will advise you of the options open to you and the possibility of referring disputes on interim payments to an adjudicator for an inexpensive and quick resolution. David Jackson: “Not all solicitors have expertise in construction matters. Contractors should seek out firms that offer specialist construction advice. Large city firms may not be for everyone and there are a number of smaller practices offering specialist construction advice” After the works have finished Final Account discussions can take months or even years as employers seem to demand more and more information before they are prepared to agree a Final Account. Contractors do not have to put up with such unreasonable behaviour and a solicitor can advise on the steps to be taken to draw the Final Account discussions to a close and obtain a figure for payment. How much is all this legal advice going to cost? C E Law has set up the National Legal Consortium as a unique way to manage legal costs. Clients of the NLC pay an affordable monthly fee which entitles them to unlimited legal advice within the scheme rules. They can take and defend proceedings, get advice on contracts notices etc. all for the monthly fee. The scheme only covers disputes arising after the client joins the NLC but clients are entitled to a discount on normal fees for all matters arising before they sign up. By involving a solicitor at the start of a project and discussing problems that arise during the project when they arise you can be advised on how best to protect your company in the increasingly “legal” landscape of today’s construction world. Specialist solicitors offer such services at a modest price and are here to help when required at all stages of a project and not just after it has all gone wrong. For further information on this article or the National Legal Consortium, call David Jackson on 0800 085 7772. www.nlcuk.net “They can advise on any notices you should give to protect your position and what steps you should take to ensure that you can demonstrate your compliance with the contract”


RCI July 2017
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