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We told them at the site meeting we wanted an extension of time. What’s the problem?!

In most construction contracts, if you want additional time or money, you must first notify your client accordingly. This is meant to give him the time to consider your application and do something different to avoid the delay or additional costs being incurred. It gives him choices and on very rare occasions, the opportunity to issue an extension of time as the project proceeds. And from our experience, that is very rare!

But amazingly, in a significant number of disputes that we work on, contractors either don’t issue any delay notices at all or issue them in the wrong way or format. Be careful, some contracts “time bar” late notices and contractors may lose their entitlement to claim in their entirety. So get a valid and timely delay notice in play, to protect yourself.

Sometimes contractors tell us that, “Our request was recorded in the site minutes of meeting”; “We have verbally told them”; “We stated in the progress report that we were going to be late”; or my favourite “I texted him”. Does this protect us?”

The simple answer is, it depends on the exact wording of the contract, but in all honesty, probably not – so why take the risk and the expense involved in trying to convince a reluctant client it does!
When you start a project, familiarise yourself with the contract, after all they lay out “the rules of the game”. See what it says about notices, how they should be issued, where to, what format, any particular requirements for content such as contract references, assessment of period of delay, proposed mitigation measures etc.

For example, we are currently working on a major project in the Middle East where the notice requirements are one of the strictest that we have seen. The notice has to be sent in a prescribed format, on official letter headed paper, signed by a specific individual and sent by recorded delivery to a nominated address.

I don’t expect your contract to be this onerous, but be prepared and implement basic procedures to make sure that you comply with the contract. Don’t potentially fall at the first hurdle and let the client “hide behind the contract”.

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