Your March Wise up Wednesday summary download is here

If you’ve missed any Wise up Wednesday emails during March, or if you just want to keep them all together, then you can download a single publication containing all of the March emails here.

Get copy now

If you don’t already receive a regular weekly copy of Wise up Wednesday’, then simply email StreetwiseSubbie via this link and we’ll add you to the list.

How do I join StreetwiseSubbie?

To find out more or to become a StreetwiseSubbie Gold Buddy, please click on the link below. You will then join dozens of other Specialist Contractors who are benefiting from being one of our Streetwise Buddies! There’s no long term tie-in and you choose the level of support you need. Here are the links to more information:

For faster success choose Gold Buddy status

Gold Buddy status unlocks a multitude of benefits including a free review of your business by expert consultants, free consultancy each month and valuable and extensive practical resources that help you to stay on top of your contractual and commercial obligations, sales and business development. We look forward to welcoming you to all this support.

Read previous publications:

And finally, you can also join our call for a full Public Inquiry into Construction by clicking the link in the story on page 8 of the February edition. You can read a flip book version here.

Visit the StreetwiseSubbie website


Site Delays Could cost You Your Business!

This Week’s “Wise Up Wednesday” is about a dirty trick used regularly by unscrupulous Contractors when things are not going well and the works on site get delayed.

Contractors Can’t Programme/Manage Properly

Regrettably, in my experience the standard of management by the Contractor’s team has declined over the last 10 years. Many have shed their most experienced staff, so as workload picked up they have brought in inexperienced personnel, or as is often the case freelance staff. On a great many projects this leads to problems, including programming and managing the works, and in some cases that I have seen the programming was shambolic.

Of course, the Contractor won’t accept responsibility for any of this!

The Contractor Blames The Subbies

As an ex Specialist Contractor turned professionally qualified consultant I have been fixing Subcontractors problems, cost effectively for the last 27 years, and I have seen this trick used over and over, and over again!

The Contractor blames you for delay and cobbles together a claim against you for – and here are actual figures from a a claim we rebutted last month;

Excessive plasterboard patching: £10,000

Cleaning: £327.50

Fire stopping: £15,000.00

Delay to overall completion 20 weeks delay: £165,131.00

 Total: Minus  £133,441.75

Take Action

Remember, if you do run into this type of set off or any other kind of contractual or payment problem, it will not get better with time!

You need to know what you have to do to protect your company.

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

WHAT DOES IT COVER? 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.

#WiseUpWednesday: Identifying And Valuing Variations In Construction

This week’s Wise Up Wednesday is about the all important  subject of variations.

The identification and proper valuation of variations is arguably the greatest source of problems for Specialist Sub-Contractors and it is therefore important to have a clear understanding of the contractual framework governing the instruction, execution and valuation of variations.

A common feature of most construction projects is that at some stage the person who has commissioned the work is going to change his mind about some element of it and will require changes to be implemented during the construction phase.

All the standard forms of contract for Main Contractors and Specialist Sub-Contractors recognise this fact and specifically provide for variations.


Standard forms of contract and sub-contract tend to define the term ‘variation’ in a similar way.  However, you need to be aware that there are a considerable number of standard forms and many different ways of dealing with variations. So, please take care to ensure that you are familiar with and understand the provisions in each particular contract.


Disputes frequently occur as to whether a particular instruction amounts to a variation. Unfortunately a common misunderstanding made by many Specialist Sub-Contractors is to assume that all Architects, Engineers and Main Contractors instructions are variations.

Let’s be clear on that; not all instructions give rise to a variation.

Instructions may merely confirm or clarify that which was originally required under the contract, whilst the Contractor or Specialist Sub-Contractor may argue that it is a change which entitles him to additional monies.

Such differences of opinion can be minimised by ensuring that the description of the work in the Contract Documents is as clear as possible. This is very much a case of easier said than done. However, attention to detail at contract formation stage, will be well worth the effort when it is becomes necessary for you to demonstrate that the work you are being instructed to do constitutes a variation to that originally contracted for.


At their most fundamental level, the are two essentials which you should observe when dealing with variation instructions.

1. Check whether or not the person purporting to have authority to issue variation instructions actually has authority to do so, and

2. Comply with the particular requirements of the contract in respect to instructions.

It is not uncommon for various parties to assume that they have authority to issue instructions when in fact they have no such authority. Check the terms of the contract and if it is not clear clarify the matter from the outset.


Variations are an opportunity for the Specialist Sub-Contractor to maximise his financial return from the project.

Please remember the old adage “if you don’t ask you don’t get” and in practice variations should be valued by the Specialist Sub-Contractor.

You need to submit details as soon as possible after the variation arises. This will avoid situations where the person commissioning the work has not been properly advised as to the increased value that has arisen because of the changes he has instigated and may have insufficient funds to pay for them.

I hope you enjoyed my Wise Up Wednesday blo and that it gave you some food for thought, and I sincerely hope to speak with you soon.

In the meantime if you need any help with any of your business problems, including getting paid for variations, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call on 01773 712116.

It’s Wise Up Wednesday! Onerous Conditions Can Cause Fireworks, And Not The Pretty Kind!

Remember remember the 5th of November…

And another thing to remember is that not all contracts are the same!

Onerous terms aren’t pretty, and you will usually find them lurking in the depths of Client’s or Contractor’s own “non-standard” documents,  but they can also arise as amendments to Standard Form contracts.

These terms are deliberately designed 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?” 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


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 defence 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 alright. 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.

Once again thank you all for your support.

Best regards


P.S. Remember you can have a great discussion about such matters as we cover in Wise Up Wednesday with almost 2,000 other Specialist Contractors in our LinkedIn Group here; LinkedIn Group