Beware sloppy procedures

Construction contracts contain a plethora of terms which require one party to give a notice to the other party.

This used to require hard copy documents to be sent by post or fax. We have moved with the times, and many notices can now be provided by email to a specific project address. The most significant notices, eg relating to suspension or termination, often have to be given as both soft and hard copy.

Where your contract specifies:

  • the party or person
  • the method
  • the address

to which your notice must be sent then it is critical you follow that procedure.

Courts will occasionally allow you a little leeway but very reluctantly:

In making this decision I should not be taken to condone sloppy procedure in the addressing or delivery of… notices…

Westminster v Kingsway 2015

This dispute arose because a contractual notice was hand-delivered to the reception of the relevant address, but the envelope failed to identify the recipient by name. The receptionist then scanned and emailed the notice to the correct person (email was not a permitted method for this type of notice).

The court said that there was no doubt the notice was received by the correct person, but did not want to condone sloppy application of notice procedures. So the sender was excused… this time at least!

What should you do?

Whenever your contract includes a requirement for you to give notices, double-check that you are giving notice to the right person, in the right method, using the correct format, and to the right address.

Case: Westminster City Council v UKI (Kingsway) Ltd & Anor [2015] UKUT 301

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