Construction Law: March 2021

Editor’s comment
Insurance problems threaten the UK’s future
The ‘golden age’ of low insurance premiums is over and the outlook is for still higher prices, for those who can get cover. Editor Nick Barrett says the issue is becoming a crisis that could block government plans to ‘build, build, build’ the UK into a brighter post Covid future.

This month’s news roundup includes a warning that confusion remains over liability for Covid-19 related delays and cost increases on many construction projects. However the sector is still less adversarial than initially feared at the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a major review of public construction frameworks is set to be carried out by a leading construction law specialist.

Legal terms explained
Harith Canna of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP explains the relevance of the Defective Premises Act 1972 to construction.

Guest editor
Emotional disputes in the age of Zoom
Virtual mediations have become commonplace and an industry has quickly learned how to master the technology required, but are they a poor substitute for face-to-face conversations? Guest Editor Bill Barton of Barton Legal argues that virtual approaches are serving the process of mediation well.

Legislation state of play table
Dentons UK and Middle East LLP provide our regular update on the progress of legislation affecting construction. David McGowan and Jennifer Robinson provide a commentary on the public procurement Green Paper.

Reports from the courts
Our regular review of the most significant cases to come before the courts, from Andrew Croft and Ben Spannuth of Beale & Company Solicitors LLP, examines a dispute that provides a reminder of the importance of agreeing and complying with clear and unambiguous payment terms; and another that underlines the importance of clear contractual drafting setting out the basis of the price and the payment regime.

Playbook signals greater scrutiny to combat suicide bidding
News Editor Steve Dale reports from a webinar that examined the new Construction Playbook, highlighting the dangers in a predicted wave of ‘suicide bidding’. Analysis of the likely impacts led participants to warn of increased dangers of disputes.

CL guides
JCT Contracts
In the latest instalment of our CL Guides series from DLA Piper Rachel Chaplin examines JCT contracts, the most comprehensive suite of building contracts.

The cladding challenge: Silent killer!
Vijay Bange and Tanya Chadha of Duane Morris review the post Grenfell impact on residential buildings that are considered to be unsafe. Remedial works will be more extensive than cladding replacements and who is to pay for what remains uncertain.

Public procurement after Brexit – what can we expect?
Stuart Brown of Trowers & Hamlins examines some key proposals of the Government’s Green Paper on transforming public procurement. Frameworks could become more popular as a result of changes to how some commercial purchasing tools operate.

Notices of Claim: the Devil is in the Detail
Chris Utton of HFW examines a recent judgment that should act as a warning to contractors to be familiar with the detail of the notice provisions in contracts. He warns that the content of the notice may be as important to the success of a claim as notifying the claim within time.

Lawyers must promote ‘green’ drafting
Sustainability is increasingly promoted in project specifications as the world tackles climate change. Jane Hughes of Stevens & Bolton LLP argues that lawyers must go further, and have a moral duty to promote sustainability provisions in contract conditions.

Simple Words – Hidden Problems
Our insurance expert John D Wright of JD Risk Associates warns about the dangers of assuming you know what a commonly used word actually means when deployed in a policy, reviewing relevant case law.

Alternative dispute resolution
Prevention is better than cure
In our latest Alternative Dispute Resolution series article Tracey Summerell of Dentons UK and Middle East LLP warns of growing pressures likely to provoke disputes. ADR can help them from arising, she advises.