Q&As

Is a contractor entitled to an extension of time if construction works are delayed due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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Produced in partnership with Abdul Jinadu of Keating Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 19/03/2020

The following Construction Q&A produced in partnership with Abdul Jinadu of Keating Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Is a contractor entitled to an extension of time if construction works are delayed due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Is a contractor entitled to an extension of time if construction works are delayed due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The answer depends entirely on the contract between the parties. Standard form contracts provide for the granting of extensions of time and these usually include a provision for force majeure which would include the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The JCT standard forms of building contract contain an extension of time provision which defines the contractor’s entitlement to an extension of time by reference to ‘relevant events’. The definition of relevant events includes ‘force majeure’. The JCT standard forms do not contain a definition of force majeure, therefore, it is necessary to consider the common law position as it pertains to frustration.

In Davis Contractors v Fareham UDC, the House of Lords gave what is now regarded as the classic definition of the doctrine when it said that frustration:

‘…occurs wherever the law recognises that without default of either party a contractual obligation has become incapable of being performed because the circumstances in which performance is called for would render it a thing radically different from that which was undertaken by the contract. Non haec in foedera veni. It was not this that I promised to do.’

A force majeure clause will be construed in each case with a close attention to the words which precede or follow it,

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