MAIN CONTRACTORS fear the adjudication process introduced by the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act and are avoiding it wherever possible, leading lawyers claimed this week.
Robert Fenwick Elliott of construction law specialist Fenwick Elliott told the Disputes Resolution 99 conference, organised by NCE and Construction Industry Council: 'Every single time my main contractor employers face the prospect from their subcontractors, they don't want to go to adjudication. Adjudication is a much more frightening prospect than arbitration.'
Fenwick Elliott said contractors' main concerns were over the speed of the process. He added: 'It is proving strangely effective as a means of focusing parties' minds and getting issues resolved without the need for any process at all.'
The HGCR Act came into effect in May 1998. A key part of it was the introduction of adjudication to take place within 28 days of a complaint being lodged, with the prime purpose being to stop late payment and pay when paid.
So far most cases have been brought by subcontractors seeking small- scale money enforcement orders.
John Ward of Beale and Company added that many contractors were still struggling to understand the impact of the Act. 'Many smaller main contractors do not have properly drafted payment or adjudication provisions in their subcontracts, and also seem reluctant to accept the change in the relative bargaining positions of the parties which the Act has introduced,' he said.
(See Analysis page 14)