It’s Wise Up Wednesday – Resolve That Dispute…

This week’s ‘Wise Up Wednesday’ is all about resolving disputes – before they start!

Many disputes can be avoided by getting the paperwork right in the first place, and making sure that everyone has a common understanding of what is expected of them, and what will happen if things go wrong.

So the first way of resolving that dispute is to stop it from happening in the first place.

Adopting the following approach can help:

  1. Record all pre-contract negotiations and confirm everything in writing and/or email;
  2. Make sure all the important details are properly incorporated in the contract and that it exactly what has been agreed;
  3. Agree on any standard terms and conditions to be used and negotiate out any onerous clauses;
  4. Don’t agree to anything you don’t understand and if you need to, don’t be shy about getting advice on your contract documentation.
  5. Make sure you follow the procedures set out in the contract – don’t ignore them…

What If Things Still Go Wrong?

Construction is a contentious business, so it’s no surprise that disputes can arise, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

Commencing any form of dispute resolution can be stressful and impact on your business, because no matter how strong your case, you can never be certain of the outcome.

That’s why it is absolutely essential that you get things right from beginning to end.


You need to know how to put all this together to make sure you keep disputes to a minimum, get paid, and protect your company’s financial well being.

So, please come  and discover the Secret Keys To Minimise Risk and Maximise Profit, that we have been putting into practice on behalf of Specialist Subcontractors for the last 27 years.

And they’re are being revealed at our March events;

“Understand Your Contract to Minimise Risk and Maximise Profit”

“Introduction To Contractual Awareness and Using JCT Subcontracts”

WHEN/WHERE IS IT? The dates and fast access venues are as follows;

15 March – Oulton HallLeeds close to M1 and M62

22 March – The Nottingham BelfryNottingham close to M1 J26

29 March – The Village HotelCoventry close to M6 and M40


We will be unlocking the Secrets To Getting Paid on time every time in a straightforward down to earth easy to follow style using real life examples.

Here’s what your fellow Subcontractors said about our last event;

“Easily digestible information delivered in an interesting and easy to understand format”

“Very detailed and informative”

“Very informative and well delivered”

“We were struggling to get paid; not any longer!”


  • Session 1 – Contract Formation
  • Session 2 – Introduction to JCT Contracts and Construction Act
  • Session 3 – Time, Notices and Delay and Disruption
  • Session 4 – Instructions, Variations and Maximising Return
  • Session 5 – Getting Paid On Time and the Right Amount
  • Session 6 – Resolving Conflicts and Disputes
  • Session 7 – Putting It All Together

WHO SHOULD ATTEND? This is exclusively for Specialist Contractors and is designed specifically to provide a broad appeal for Specialist Contractors staff who work with contracts which includes;

  • Estimators,
  • Contracts Managers;
  • Project Managers;
  • Commercial Managers,
  • Quantity Surveyors,
  • Credit Controllers and
  • Directors

WHAT WILL WE GET OUT OF IT? The Secrets To Getting Paid! Specialist Contractors don’t get paid because they don’t understand the contract or don’t apply it when they should. We will reveal all you need to know to enable you to understand the fundamentals of those subcontracts, and how to get paid.

WHAT DOES IT COST? You can book now for preferential discounts and rates – but be quick to ensure you receive your Early Booking Discount!

Book within the next few days and instead of paying £350, you can pay just £315.00 saving you 10% off the standard price.

Book two or more places and you can pay just £280 each saving you 20% off the standard price.

Special rates apply for our Buddies (members) – please ask Tanya for details.

All rates are subject to VAT

Booking couldn’t be simpler, just contact Tanya directly on 01773 712116 or to confirm your places and she will take care of the rest. She is brilliant!

But hurry our last round of seminars sold out very quickly.

Best regards


P.S. Please remember that we are here to provide solutions exclusively for Subcontractors. If you want access to professional solutions that work, then please give us a call on 01773 712116, or email today.


Should You Be Issuing Payment Notices?

If you employ Sub-Contractors this week’s blog is for you; it’s about the all important topic of Payment Notices.

Is Your Payment Mechanism “Adequate”?

Every construction contract (as defined in the Construction Act) must have an “adequate” payment mechanism.In very simple terms it must have a:

  • Payment Due Date – when the work must be valued
  • Payment Period – time between Payment Due Date and Final Date for Payment
  • Final Date for Payment – latest date when payment can be made In any event,
  • Mechanism that clearly determines the Payment Due Date and the Final Date for Payment.

If the contract payment terms do not meet these requirements, the provisions from the  Scheme for Construction Contracts will apply.

Payment Notices

There are strict requirements for both payer and payee to issue and manage payment notices which operate the payment mechanism.

All Notices must state the amount and the “basis” of calculation. So, you must be certain of what the Payment Due Date is as there is an absolute requirement to serve a Payment Notice up to 5 days after the Payment Due Date. If this time period is missed it is a breach of contract with consequences.

Bad News For You

This is could all be bad news for you, because when you are the payer you must get it right or you could find yourself in breach of contract by failing to serve a Payment Notice within in 5 days of the Payment Due Date.

Most contracts require your Sub-Contractors to submit an application for payment, and in that case their application for payment automatically becomes the Default Payment Notice.

If a Default Notice is served there is no defence to the amount claimed if a Payless Notice is not served in the time specified.

Valid Payless Notice?

A Payless Notice is a final chance for you as the payer to value the works and withhold monies trumping the Payment Notices or Default Payment Notice. However, the Payless Notice must be valid and must state the amount and basis for calculation.

The key thing about Payment Notices is that timing and content is critical to their validity, and if these Notices are not managed properly by you your Sub-Contractors will be entitled to challenge them.

And that means you could end up paying monies which the Sub-Contractor is not actually entitled to. don’t risk it, check your processes now.

Got a payment problem? Get in touch and let us help! Call 01773 712116 or email to find out more.

Another Two Specialist Contractors Bite The Dust…But Who’s Counting?

Another One Bites The Dust…

(It’s two actually – but no-one seems to be counting)

Just read about not one, but two Specialist Contractors that have bit the dust this week…

McGrath Bros (Engineering) Group has ceased trading with the loss of 171 jobs.

The firm, founded in 1981, worked on major projects across the UK, including the London Olympics Aquatics Centre, with a London office in Tottenham handling a large order book in England and a Glasgow office covering Scotland.


Hull-based offsite manufacturer Modular Space Limited has fallen into administration.

The firm specialised in site cabins supplying the Costain/Skanksa joint venture on Crossrail and Wates.  It also delivered prefabricated buildings for school and health projects.

Skills and High Profile Projects Do Not Equal Success

Clearly both firms had worked on high profile projects, they don’t come much bigger than the Olympics and Crossrail. And there was no shortage of skills and expertise in these two companies, Modular had even developed a special two-storey house design, which could be assembled from four basic units in just five hours.

So What’s Going Wrong?

The fact of the matter is that whilst Trade Associations and Build UK tinker around the edges of the major issues facing you and your business, and promote nonsensical solutions to the very real and business threatening payment problems facing the industry, more Specialist Contractors are going to fail.

As Brian McGrath is quoted as saying;

“Legacy contracts taken on during the recession have also taken their toll on main contractors and specialist subcontractors alike, all linking to underpayments of completed works and disputed final accounts.”

So, if you are not getting paid properly then don’t delay in getting it sorted.

Please don’t stand for late or underpayment.

Take action

Take action to safeguard your business from the catastrophic impact of reduced, late, or non-payment in 2016.

If you don’t then it could cost you your business…

Unscrupulous Contractors use every trick in the book, to reduce and delay payments. Specialist Contractor’s efforts to avoid or rectify this problem often come too late in the process.

Don’t be one of the casualties, take action now.

You can download a complimentary “How To Get Paid” report right now, and put an end to reduced, late and non-payment.

And you can call us for initial no cost advice on 01773 712116, and our Gold and Platinum Buddies can use their commercial and contractual consultancy to find an answer.

Whatever level your business is at, and whatever your specialisation I want to encourage you to experience and enjoy a better more profitable, less stressful way.


UK Construction Blacklisting Scandal – It’s a Disgrace!

According to reports in today’s construction media Contractors involved in the construction blacklisting scandal have settled claims with another 180 workers.

Campaigners claimed the latest payouts totaled “in the region of £15-20 million plus legal costs” and come ahead of the full blacklist trial set to start at the High Court on May 9 and scheduled to run until July 31.

Eight contractors – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci PLC – have set up The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme to try and settle with victims out of court.

A spokeswoman for the Contractors confirmed that 180 new settlements had been reached, and the Blacklist Support Group said there are currently 154 live claims remaining plus 82 recently issued new claims.

What’s that got to do with you?

You may be thinking what has that got to do with me?

Well, first of all the blacklisting happened in the industry from which we all earn our living, and frankly we should all be outraged that these Contractors behaved in this way and ruined the lives of so many people, and tarnished the reputation of the industry.

Secondly, we should be disgusted by the fact that having been found out, and in some cases admitted their part in the sordid affair, the Contractors involved have pushed their victims all the way to the steps of the court before paying out.

Lastly, Specialist Contractors need to be wary of the culture that pervades at the highest levels of some construction companies. Because frankly you need to be extremely careful that you don’t fall foul of it.

As we have seen some companies will do and say anything, so, if you do not look after your own interests, this is an industry where some people won’t think twice about making you suffer. Don’t fall for the Contractor’s BS, because it is highly likely (there are some exceptions), that what they are telling you is a pack of lies.

Take action!

One of the key areas that you need to be extremely careful about is payment. Please don’t stand for late or underpayment.

Take action to safeguard your business from the catastrophic impact of reduced, late, or non-payment in 2016.

If you don’t then it could cost you your business!

Unscrupulous Contractors use every trick in the book, to reduce and delay payments. Specialist Contractor’s efforts to avoid or rectify this problem often come too late in the process.

Don’t be one of the casualties, take action now.

Download “How To Get Paid” for free right now, and put an end to reduced, late and non-payment!

Whatever level your business is at, I want to encourage you to experience and enjoy a better more profitable, less stressful way.


I hope you enjoyed my Wise Up Wednesday email and that it gave you some food for thought, and please don’t hesitate to grab your Free Report at “How To Get Paid” and if you need any help with any of your business problems pick up the phone and give us a call on 01773 712116.

Wise Up Wednesday: Would You Ignore Being Ripped Off?

​Imagine you are in the supermarket and your favourite wine is advertised at 50% off, you put a half a dozen bottles into your trolley (whilst your partner isn’t looking), but when you get to the checkout the price you are charged shows that you only got the 50% discount on one bottle.

You query it with the cashier, only to be told that “you need to read the small-print on the advertisement”. Would you just accept it and pay up regardless?

No. I didn’t think so!

If you are like most of us you would be checking that ad and asking to see the manager and having a right go about it.

So why don’t Specialist Contractors adopt the same mentality when their business is being ripped off by onerous terms?

Not all contracts are the same, and onerous terms are there waiting to rip off the unwary. You will usually find them lurking in the depths of Contractor’s own “non-standard” documents,  but they can also arise as amendments to Standard Form contracts.

These terms are deliberately designed to reduce your entitlements and increase your obligations. They will certainly make your life more difficult, they could end up costing you a substantial amount of money, and in the worst case scenario they may even cost you your business!

The simplest way to put onerous terms into context is to ask yourself this question; “Why, when there are all manner of Standard Form contracts around such as JCT, NEC and MF/1, does anyone need to produce their own terms?”.

The simple answer is that it isn’t for your benefit!

So, what are the things you need to look out for? Here are some examples;

(a)          Extended payment periods

(b)          Long notice period before you are allowed to suspend performance

(c)           Pay when certified (unlawful in contracts to which the Construction Act applies)

(d)          Extended fixed price periods

(e)          Non-payment for unfixed materials

(f)           Excessive discount

(g)          Discount not linked to prompt payment

(h)          Excessive retentions and/or prolonged repayment periods.

(i)            Onerous set-off  and cross contract set-off clauses

(j)           Acceleration without payment

(k)          Vague programme information.

(l)            Design fitness for purpose obligations

(m)         Open ended co-ordination obligations

(n)          Restricted rights of recovery on variations

(p)          Protection of your  works

(q)          Client’s milestone dates for access

(r)           Excessive liquidated damages

(s)           Restricted extension of time entitlements

(t)           Restricted loss and expense entitlements

(u)          Delay notice periods made a condition precedent

(v)          Adjudication entitlements restricted or delayed

(w)         Costs of adjudication to be paid by the Sub-Contractor

(x)          Other Construction Act abuses​

Don’t Allow Onerous Conditions Into The Contract!

Obviously the best time to find out about onerous provisions is at the enquiry stage before you have even submitted your price. You should always be clear about the terms and conditions you will be working under if your tender is successful.

If you don’t know or don’t have time to find out about terms and conditions you should always qualify your tender. For example you could qualify it by saying something to the effect of

“Our price is based on the assumption that an appropriate JCT Standard Form of Sub-Contract will be used and subject to agreement of all necessary details to enable Articles of Agreement to be completed”


“Our offer is subject to the agreement of appropriate terms and conditions and we have not priced the risk of entering into any onerous or non-standard form of agreement”

If your tender is successful then you will be invited to enter into a contract or possibly sent an Order or Contract to sign. This is a very dangerous time because a contract, including the onerous provisions could easily come into being!

The first line of defense lies is recognising onerous terms and conditions in the first place. Whilst you may be tempted to ignore the small print, you may subsequently find that a contract has come into force incorporating onerous terms which have fatal consequences for your business.

You need to act quickly and carefully. Don’t think that you can start work, even design work or ordering materials, and just because you haven’t signed the contract everything will be all right. It won’t!

The contract conditions should be carefully checked, particularly if they are contained in a completely non-standard form. Beware too of contracts that purport to be Standard Forms but then have pages and pages of amendments.

Unfortunately, you also have to be wary of clauses that are not there, as well as checking the ones that are!

For instance, if you are designing the works and the contract is silent about design liability, then you will have a very onerous “fitness for purpose” obligation. This is much worse than it sounds because you are literally guaranteeing your design will satisfy the Employer’s needs irrespective of what you knew or didn’t know about his business or industry.

In order not to be caught by onerous provision you must make it perfectly clear that you are rejecting their onerous terms. Notice I said rejecting their terms, not rejecting their order.

There may be times when you have to take a commercial decision to accept onerous terms and conditions of contract.  In this situation you need to be very clear about the risks you are running and manage them accordingly.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Wise Up Wednesday.

If you are in any doubt about whether or not the terms and conditions are onerous you need to take professional advice and StreetwiseSubbie’s Nationwide Network of Consultants are experts in helping you to deal with such matters. If you need help, you can call us for initial free advice on 01773 712116.

“This nuclear power deal with China is one of the maddest ever struck” So says Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and I agree with her!

Not much keeps me awake at night, (it’s currently 4.48 am – and this has nothing to do with politics), but the sheer stupidity and arrogance of our current bunch of buffoons beggars belief.

Why do we need a Chinese company to build a nuclear power plant in England? Are we so hopelessly incapable of designing and building such a plant? If so we should be ashamed. When I was a 16 year old kid we went on a trip to Trawsfynydd nuclear power plant in Wales.

According to Wikipedia The power station was designed by Sir Basil Spence, and built by a consortium involving Crompton Parkinson, Fairey Engineering and Richardsons Westgarth. It began in July 1959, and both of the reactors were in operation by March 1965, with the station opening fully in October 1968, at a cost of £103 million. The civil engineering work was undertaken by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts and Trollope & Colls.

All good British names and no foreign investment in sight!

So, why some 50 years later do we need the Chinese, or anyone else for that matter, to come and show us how to build nuclear power plants.

Why do we need the Chinese to build it when our Government’s says (see Construction 2025) :

“Construction is a sector where Britain has a strong competitive edge. We have world-class expertise in architecture, design and engineering, and British companies are leading the way in sustainable construction solutions.

Changes in the international economy are creating new opportunities for Britain. To help boost the economic recovery, Government is doing all it can to help British businesses grow and have the aspiration, confidence and drive to compete in the global race.”

Oh yeah that’s why its slashed the renewable subsidy by 87% sending solar and wind companies crashing, onshore wind is destroyed by the government’s refusal to grant planning permission, and thousands of jobs are lost at steel plants due to the flood of cheap Chinese steel.

Apart from the security concerns of having a Chinese nuclear bomb embedded in our back yard (don’t snigger read what our security service says), what does all this say about our once great construction and engineering industries? What does it say about us as a nation that we put up with this!

No wonder I can’t sleep!

“Only Those Who Are Asleep Make No Mistakes…”

“Only those who are asleep make no mistakes”

-Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, world’s largest furniture brand

It’s only 7 words long, but what a great quote that is!

Everybody makes mistakes, especially in the business world, and as a Specialist Contractor making mistakes can be extremely costly for your business. So, it’s important to ensure that we don’t make mistakes that we could easily have avoided with a little bit of forethought.

And although what we install, and how we do it can be extremely complicated, avoiding commercial and contractual problems can be surprisingly easy with the right approach.

So, here are my 7 top tips for avoiding costly commercial and contractual mistakes.

1 Who Are You Actually Contracting With?

Even in good times Contractors will still become insolvent, and when G B Building Solutions failed earlier this year they owed over £30million their Specialist Contractors!

If the Contractor you’re working for goes bust you will get nothing!

Watch out for contracts that allow the Contractor not to pay you if the Employer becomes insolvent, because you are then taking the risk of not getting paid if they go bust.

2 Scope of the Works

It’s a chore but you should carefully check that the scope of works in the contract matches what you have priced.

At best Contractors don’t care if you get it wrong – their terms will protect them.

At worst some Contractors will deliberately manipulate the scope of works to increase their profits.

3 Time/Programme

Make sure the contract period is agreed and properly documented before you start the works.

Don’t agree to work “in accordance with the Contractor’s programme” or “in accordance with his directions.”

Failing to protect your interests in respect to time can prove extremely costly!

4 Price and Discount

If you have made important qualifications in your tender make sure they are not lost when the contract is formed.

Make sure you know the fundamental basis of the contract (e.g. lump sum, re-measurable, cost plus) and therefore who is taking the risk of quantifying the scope of the works.

Don’t allow one off discounts to be applied to variations.

5 Payment Terms

Make sure the payment terms are clear and unambiguous, and that you understand how they will work in practice.

Watch out for pay when paid, or pay when certified type abuses, and make sure you know what has to be done to ensure you get paid on time.

If the payment process is linked to valuation dates make sure these are agreed and recorded and go beyond the end of the anticipated contract period.

6 Design Liability

It is very easy to acquire design liability even when you think you haven’t got any responsibility for design.

If the contract does not expressly limit your design liability to “reasonable skill and care” you will get the more onerous liability of “fitness for purpose.”

Fitness for purpose obligations will void your professional indemnity or product liability insurance cover!

7 Non Payment And Dispute Resolution!

Being able to suspend performance for non-payment is a very effective remedy.

Adjudication (used correctly) is a very effective legal solution.

Neither remedy is automatically available, and you need to ensure that these rights are not taken away by onerous drafting of the contract.

Free Advice And information

If you want to know more, our unique web site has lots of free advice and it’s exclusively for Specialist Contractors, and it provides you with information about 40 different aspects of your business!

Our expert team of professionals provide all the expertise and support you need to resolve your problems and grow your business. Our goal is your wealth and security, now and in the future.

We look forward to keeping you up to date and helping you to resolve all your business problems.