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How to avoid common pitfalls in your construction project
The judgment Cartwright Pond Ltd v Wild  EWHC 1600 (TCC) highlights key issues that a building contractor and a homeowner should consider at the procurement stage, including:
1. Appoint independent professionals
You should appoint independent professionals, such as a construction lawyer, at the pre-contract stage to advise you on key terms of a contract. A lawyer should negotiate and agree a contract with the opposing party before works are commenced.
2. Appoint a contract administrator
A contract administrator should be appointed before or once the contract is in place. A contract administrator will assist the employer at the pre-contract stage by deciding:
the type of building contract the parties should execute, and
basic terms, such as the start and completion date of the project and the level of liquidated damages.
A contract administrator is responsible for administering the contract between both parties and will make key decisions throughout the project. The risk of a project drifting for far longer than it ought to have been is also minimised. They will also create a document trail that may assist in a dispute.
Although the homeowner, in this case ], was an IT professional, that did not mean she was necessarily equipped to manage the project on her own. If a contract administrator was appointed in this case, it is likely that the issues could have been resolved swiftly and without the need for the parties to proceed to trial.
3. Read and understand your contract
In a typical construction dispute, the parties are required to read and understand what their obligations under the contract are. In this case, both parties did not understand the terms of the contract.
The homeowner stated the contract included the RIBA form standard terms whereas the court stated otherwise. Each party should seek legal advice on the key terms of a contract, understand how an extension of time mechanism works and how to deal with a potential dispute. Each party should not believe that they will save money by avoiding legal advice during any stage of a project.
4. Keep records
Before a party brings a claim based on delay or disruption, they should gather documentary evidence in support of their claim. This should include labour records, timesheets, schedule of attendance by subcontractors, photographic evidence and email correspondence between both parties.
I am a construction lawyer specialising in dispute resolution and construction law and can be contacted on 01245 453804 or alternatively you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.