Disputes relating to concrete work regularly feature in matters dealt with by the Tribunal.

Concrete work is generally undertaken in difficult conditions. Site conditions can be challenging and weather plays a critical part in the carrying out of all aspects of concrete work. Tolerances and surface finishes for footings, floor slabs, masonry walls, precast panels, beams and other building components, driveways, yards and patios can be critical and are often not well understood or achieved.

Ground conditions may vary across a site and may be more difficult to work in than expected (ie rock, buried rubbish, tree roots, other services etc) or in some cases, unsuitable for supporting the structure without considerable additional work being undertaken. That work often comes at considerable cost for which no real benefit is visible.

Concrete will crack for many and varied reasons. Where the concrete work is in fact the finished surface, cracks and other surface defects and irregularities will almost certainly come under close scrutiny and the scope and nature of any remedial work that may be required will inevitably be the subject of debate due to high cost at one end of the remedial spectrum and aesthetics and durability where a low-cost solution is proposed.

Quotations will often omit (deliberately or accidentally) items of work but not expressly state so on their face and may be presented in the form of an ‘estimate’ or contain estimates for items of work to be undertaken in the form of PC (Prime Cost) or Provisional Sums that are woefully inaccurate for the work/materials that are in fact required to be undertaken/supplied.

Owners will generally build to the very limit of their financing capacity with no contingency provision, and where ground conditions require bespoke geotechnical solutions, the cost and time associated with that work can cause financial problems for a project. In many cases owners will request changes to the scope of work and specification as work progresses without first obtaining a price or having any understanding of the cost and time consequences of their instructions.

On the other hand, some concrete contractors lack the necessary skills and/or fail to have adequate quality assurance processes in place to ensure they achieve the agreed/specified finish, and/or to complete their work by the due date for completion.

In the circumstances, it is little wonder that disputes relating to concrete work are commonplace. There are essentially two types of disputes that we deal with:

  • technical (in the legal sense) disputes – ie disputes that arise out of non-compliance with the technical requirements for making and responding to payment claims under the Construction Contracts Act 2002 (the Act); and
  • merits based disputes – ie disputes about the merits of the parties’ arguments in terms of the construction contract that governs their relationship, or in the case of a contract with a residential occupier, the statutory warranties that are implied into every residential building contract under s362I of the Building Act regardless of whether there is a written building contract. Typical merits based plumbing disputes include disputes in relation to:
    • non-payment for work undertaken;
    • contract interpretation – what the parties actually agreed;
    • scope of work;
    • quality of work;
    • quality of materials;
    • time for completion;
    • payment – the value of the work undertaken in the absence of express agreement as to price;
    • estimates v actual cost;
    • variations – whether certain work is in fact a variation to the agreed scope of work and the value of that varied work;
    • defective work;
    • scope and cost of rectification work;
    • repudiation/cancellation of the contract; and
    • damages for breach of contract.
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With 20 years experience in the avoidance, management, and resolution of building and construction disputes, the Building Disputes Tribunal is recognised and respected as the leading independent, nationwide provider of specialist dispute resolution services to the building and construction industry.

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