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Cutting through the legalese: “time at large”

I took the opportunity to ask our Twitter followers to put in requests for any “legalese” that they would like me to translate for them.  The first suggestion was “time at large”.  I was challenged to explain it in one Tweet (140 characters).  I have, instead, managed to explain it clearly (I hope) in 210 words as follows: 

“Time at large” is only relevant if a delay event occurs which isn’t specifically covered in your construction contract.  This happens more often than you might think as many contractors’ standard T&Cs either fail to deal with delay at all, or deal with very specific causes of delay but fail to include a “catch all provision”. 

Under a contract defective in that way, if a delay event occurs for which the contractor isn’t liable, the completion date in the contract falls away.  If the contractor isn’t liable for the delay, the employer cannot require him to complete the works by the contractual completion date, and so time is “at large.” 

From this point, the contactor does not have “as long as they want” to complete the works; they must complete them within a reasonable time, which will be decided on a case by case basis taking into account all the relevant circumstances. 

It is therefore important to remember that, in the event of a delay not covered by your contract, the contractor’s obligation is only to complete within a “reasonable” time.  The ideal approach would be for the parties to agree a revised completion date as soon as possible and treat this as an amendment to the original contract.  

Anna Wood assisted by Ben Blackman

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These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. 

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