Did you get legal advice on your buildings contracts?

The last few weeks of the school summer holidays would have been a busy time for schools as construction works are finalised before the new school year starts.  Building work within the education sector has continued thanks to the Priority Schools’ Building Programme.  The original scheme saw 260 schools being provided with £4 billion worth of financing for building works; the second phase will see a further 277 schools receiving £6 billion.

However, how often do the people at schools responsible for spending this money - people such as head teachers, governors and facility managers - take legal advice on the contracts that govern those works?  More often, legal advice is received from the architect who designed the works and not from a lawyer.

An architect is usually the first point of call for a project as they are involved from the initial point of design.  That, of course, is one of the exciting parts of a construction project.  However, what form of contract do you use for your contract with the architect?  The architect will usually suggest using the RIBA Form of Appointment but this is often suggested simply as a footnote in a fee proposal letter.

The RIBA Form of Appointment is generally seen in the construction industry as being unduly favourable to the professional consultant as most of the risk is placed on the client.  The duties for carrying out the work are not particularly high or burdensome; the client must pay quickly and has a limited right to withhold payment, and architects can terminate at will by giving reasonable notice.  In addition, there will be a cap on liability.  These and other issues can be unfair to a client and it may be better to use a different form of contract - one which many architects and other professional consultants are happy to accept.

There is then the question over the form of contract that governs the building work.  There are many standard forms, such as JCT and NEC.  These are not perfect and have not been drawn up for the specific circumstances of the works which are being carried out.  Although the standard forms of contract can be appropriate as a starting point, it is often best to include amendments that give the client more protection and which can tailor the contract to the specific needs of the parties. 

If you would like to discuss any issues relating to existing or proposed building contracts, please contact Peter Allen.

Peter Allen
01245 453813
peter.allen@birkettlong.co.uk

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.