Time at large in construction contracts

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

  • Time at large in construction contracts
  • What does 'time at large' mean?
  • How does time become 'at large'?
  • There is no contractual power to extend time/operation of the prevention principle
  • The contractual power to extend time cannot operate correctly or has been wrongly/unreasonably operated
  • What are the consequences of time being at large?
  • What is a 'reasonable time' for completion?
  • Time bar clauses
  • Time at large in practice
  • Concurrent delay

Time at large in construction contracts

This Practice Note examines the concept of ‘time at large’ in relation to the completion of works under a construction contract, including what time at large means, how it occurs and what the consequences are of time becoming at large (including what constitutes a ‘reasonable time’ for completion).

What does 'time at large' mean?

Most construction contracts require the contractor to complete the works by a specified date (or within a specified period of time). If the contractor fails to do so, and unless the terms of the contract entitle it to claim an extension to the completion date in respect of the cause(s) of the delay, it will usually be liable to pay liquidated damages (known as LADs or LDs) to the employer.

Where, due to the absence or inadequacy of the contractual provisions relating to the time for completion of the works, the employer cannot insist on the contractor completing works by a specific contractual completion date, time is said to be 'at large'. Time at large usually means that there is no enforceable date for completion, and the contractor then only has an implied obligation to complete the works within a ‘reasonable time’. As explained below, an important consequence of this is that the employer loses its ability to claim LADs.

An implied obligation to complete within a reasonable time

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