Building contract: planning binding upon parties?

Many construction disputes between building contractors and clients are about delays in the building project. Therefore building contracts usually contain specific provisions regarding the maximum building duration, often expressed in a fixed number of working days. Also common is to draw up a schedule for the different project components. But what of this schedule is not consistent with the contractual maximum building duration? Dutch construction lawyer Marco Guit gives more information.


Building duration: 200 working days after start project

In litigation that lead to recent case law, a contractor had a conflict with his client. The building contract stated that the project had to be completed within 200 working days after the first structural columns were installed. In a working schedule, however, the starting date of the project was set on 21 June 2010. The columns were installed on 5 January 2011 and the works begun. The building was eventually delivered as a shell on 10 November 2011. But was this completion in time or too late?

Starting date schedule differs from contract

The client pleads before Court that the contractor was bound to the schedule. According to this schedule the starting date was set on 21 June 2010 and, according to the client, the building should have been completed within 200 working days hereafter. As this was not the case, the client is due a fixed compensation for every day of the delay. The contractor, on the other hand, claims he did complete and deliver in time.

Schedule of contractor for information purposes only

The Court of Appeal decides in the contractor’s favour. A schedule is essentially indicative. The dates in the schedule are not considered to bind parties especially seen the explicit mentioning of a starting date in the actual contract (“the day the columns are installed”). Whereas the contractor has finished the building works within 200 days after the installation of the columns, the client is not entitled to any form of compensation. His claim was denied.

Dutch law firm in construction disputes

Failing a completion deadline is detrimental to both parties. For a client, because he has to wait longer before he can use the building, but also (and sometimes even more) for a contractor. The daily contractual fine for a delay in building works can rise sharply. An agreement about the duration and a realistic timetable form essential parts of a good building contract. The experienced lawyers of AMS are able to advise you in drafting these contracts. Please feel free to contact our law firm.