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Like a Thief in the Night - GET THE RIGHT PAYMENT!

Of late this is our second focus on getting paid. Now there is lots and lots of advise out there on how to use different tools, techniques to guarantee getting paid, or guarantee that your build will be free of defects and/ or quality imperfections, but lets be honest the contracting and the construction industry has always had a air of the wild, wild west of industry and business. (Its a must to get those quick plugs of our previous article "Stick Em Up"). Can I say this without an onslaught.... let me tread carefully, there are a few cowboys and rogues out there not really renowned for always following the rules and higher moral standing of society.... phew, think I got away with that one!

I am not sure how I got this quote but as Bob Younger (infamous outlaw - allegedly) said, "we are rough men and used to rough ways". However over the years there has been many an attempt to change this perception. None more so recognisable than in the 1990's with the likes of Latham, Egan and the OCG leading us in a "spirit of mutual trust and co-operation" edging forward towards the NEC3/4 Suite of Contracts as we now know them and of course the UK's Construction Act and the inclusive "scheme". JCT has even evolved and for the smaller home owner type projects has achieved a few accolades including the The Crystal Mark standard - Plain English Campaign.

Despite all this, dipping a toe in the construction can be a daunting. You can not always judge how tepid or deep the water is actually going to be. Even the experienced and educated of us all can fall foul of that rogue, who doesn't pay their rent, for work we did, doesn't honour the agreement when expecting you to and decides to borrow your possessions, of course for their permanent safe keeping! Great defence that one isn't it?

Now there are many reasons for someone to shout from the dock that they have not been paid or why they shouldn't pay.

There are those with the legitimate, truly badly done to yelp, the yelp that clearly does demand a shout out and is worthy of note - the work is all done, done well, as agreed and as planned. Simple - Pay them! very, very simple.


In stark contrast to such a simple scenario there are others, well, to put it very simply, there are others that are not always as clear cut as the "we have not been paid" tantrum implies. After all why should you pay for a cracked wall, an ill aligned design that forgoes on the basics or for that matter a claim or variation that for ant of a better way of putting it is moody or in bad faith!

My point here is that we shouldn't jump automatically to the defence of everyone who cries foul of not being paid. Lets be balanced here. Lets also point and highlight the fact that the proverbial thieves come in every disguise and persuasion.

So as has become the norm, what is our advise, of staying away from following foul of the "rough men and ways".

(1) Write things down!

It's a simple one to start with but really in this day and age we see all sorts. Agreements can be either as lengthy as war and peace, floating around in the ether or they really can be on a fag packet or these days even worse, in someone's head.

Don't forget verbal contracts are of course enforceable right up to the point where you have a different opinion!

(2) Check your Deal!

Those that know me well, will know that I differentiate between the legalese of a contract from a deal. In recent times, it appears that a few of us out there have forgotten the basic commercial sense of agreements, choosing instead to focus on the more Armageddon factors of indemnities, etc.

There will be changes and when there are be clear what happens if they occur. Have an agreement like the NEC or JCT suites of agreements that tell you the rules of valuation of changes. But and this is a big but -Don't forget that £125 an hour for a general labourer is a tad on the pricey side! Even in 2017.

If you don't then you may end up getting robbed with contractual legitimacy.

(3) Know what you are buying?

Unlike buying a car, buying a new building or specialist service is not quite as simple. After all you can't see it until it is finished. Therefore you need to rely on a description of what you want or better, want to achieve and how the end building needs to perform.

Far too often the lines around the outside of the scope become blurred... now the windows included, but the walls that support them? Doh!

An exaggeration appreciated, but it is amazing how many times we see disputes over what was or was not included in the original deal.

(4) Be an obsessive compulsive!

This is an interesting one because on other sites I read that any buyer of building services should not be a perfectionist - but why shouldn't you? Why shouldn't you insist that a wall is straight, a coping is cut perpendicular, symmetrical, etc.

This is more difficult in different sectors, as the onset of the design and build contract has sort of got us all accepting something that the builder decides but going way, way back to my university days and the RICS Procurement Guide, does (did) dictate that your quality may not be as you want if you choose such routes and if you are OCD pick a different option. Therefore if you want top quality and want to pay for top quality make sure you get it!

(5) Building Control are not Quality Control

Don't think that Building control will snag your job, they won't. You can have a situation where building control accept work because it is structurally sound, but in the same vein, it can look like a dogs dinner!

(6) Know the People you are dealing with

No I am not saying connect with everyone you meet on Facebook. What I mean here is know the credentials of those you are working with. You do not want a bricklayer working on your Bentley. Ensure that your tradesman have the credentials to do what you are asking them to do. If they don't it may be an odds on certainty that the quality may be sketchy and not up to expectations.

(7) Pay the right price

Cheap is normally not the right price!! If things look too good to be true, they normally are (except of course our retained services packages - wink, wink!).

(8) Pay the right Payment at the Right Time(s)

All companies (large or small) trades and labour in the construction industry need cash so that they can progress projects, so cash flow is very, very important. There are articles out there saying don't pay until the end, hold back retention, etc. What ever you decide to do and structure your deal, remember cash flow or lack of it can have a serious detrimental affect on the quality, time for completion and inevitably the price of a project. And so it should - there are not many industries that lend money for free!

If cash flow payments are agreed, make sure that you pay the right price for the right elements. Another exaggeration - on a £2m project, paying £1.5m after breaking ground is clearly not the right price or payment to be made at that time.

(9) Two heads are better than one

None of us know everything - I myself am not a self proclaimed rocket scientist, therefore it make sense that if I was embarking on a mission to Mars, i would go and get an astronaut and a few scientists and physicists to help me achieve my goal.

Building, construction, finance should be no different. But a side thought - A piece of software does not make a architect, surveyor, etc.

(10) Trust yourself!

As Malcolm Gladwell said in his best seller Blink - “Insight is not a light bulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”! Sometime not always easy to do, particularly on a Sunday after a good roast dinner, but you must stay alert, trust yourself and if things start to feel, look and sound wrong, trust yourself and at the very least get a professional opinion.

If you have stayed interested enough to get to the end... you may be interested in the further ramblings of "...contracts man in the trenches....". Please FOLLOW ME by clicking the button on the top... bottom... right... somewhere on this page? Or what about at least sharing the article? Thanks! Feel free to reach out anytime.