Force majeure in construction contracts
Force majeure in construction contracts

The following Construction guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Force majeure in construction contracts
  • What is force majeure?
  • Identifying force majeure in construction
  • Should force majeure be defined in the contract?
  • Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
  • Force majeure in standard form building contracts

What is force majeure?

Force majeure is used to describe an event that occurs which is beyond the control of the parties, and which prevents them from fulfilling their contractual obligations. The courts have previously held that force majeure is an event which goes beyond what the courts understand by the terms 'act of God' or 'vis major'.

There is, however, no precise legal definition of force majeure. Standard form building contracts deal with force majeure in different ways (see below: Force majeure in standard form building contracts). Parties may, or may not, choose to incorporate a definition of what constitutes force majeure into their contract. It can be difficult therefore to predict with any certainty what will constitute force majeure in any context—and the wording of any force majeure clause and the particular circumstances will have to be examined in every case.

This Practice Note considers force majeure in the context of construction contracts. For consideration of force majeure clauses generally, see Practice Note: Discharge by force majeure.

It is very common to find a clause expressly dealing with force majeure events in a construction contract. In a construction contract a force majeure clause will usually relieve a party from the consequences of failing to perform its obligations when a force majeure event occurs—either by entitling that party to suspend performance,