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Contractor claims warning

Contractors seeking to make claims for construction delays caused by the recent bad weather could struggle to receive compensation, lawyers warned this week.

Construction projects all over the country, including work on the London 2012 site, came to a halt in January as snow brought roads, railways and airports to a standstill (NCE 11 January).

But construction lawyers have this week warned that contractors may struggle to claim compensation as clients have begun removing bad weather clauses from contracts.

“We are handling an awful lot of disputes and inevitably some of those will relate to delay caused by adverse weather,” said Pinsent Masons senior associate Ian Stubbs.

“But bad weather doesn’t automatically excuse non-performance. So unless you have a specific condition in the contract to deal with adverse weather, the contractor is deemed to have taken the risk,” he said.

“Unless you have a specific condition in the contract to deal with adverse weather, the contractor is deemed to have taken the risk.”

Ian Stubbs

Standard contracts such as JCT and NEC usually contain clauses relating to weather events. The JCT offers additional time in the event of exceptional weather and the NEC 3 contract lists weather as being a potential compensation event.

However, some clients have removed the weather clause from their contract documents.

“It is not uncommon for employers to say it is better for the contractor to take this risk. The client might decide to delete exceptionally adverse weather from the list of events that will be given extensions of time. So it may be that there is no contractual entitlement to weather,” said Stubbs.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said it was concerned about the issue and had issued guidance to members on the subject of bad weather.

The chill of the recession

Stubbs said the tough economic times meant contractors were more likely to seek compensation for delays. “In better times contractors can afford to deal with the effect of weather but because of the increased financial pressure more and more contractors can ill afford to deal with this.

“Over the coming months when people are sorting out their final accounts realising that they are late on a particular project, they will be looking to find out what effect weather has had on their performance and whether or not they can claim time and maybe money,” he said.

  • Pinsent Masons is holding a series of breakfast briefings concerning unexpected events such as bad weather. Visit the Pinsent Masons website

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