Catrin Rees from Collyer Bristow asks, ‘What can possibly go wrong?’ when commissioning bespoke fittings and finishings for a new property.
Bespoke fittings and finishings obviously come with a premium price tag and will often represent the personality of the property owner – and that leaves plenty of room for costly mistakes. A little forethought and planning in advance of entering into contract with the main contractor can avoid problems at the end of the works.
Areas to consider
First, be clear who will be responsible for procuring and installing the bespoke items, and understand the effect on the risk and responsibility profile of the project as a result. If proper thought is not given to this at the start, it could cause delays and additional cost as the project nears practical completion. It may be advantageous to request that the main contractor is responsible for these activities as in most cases the contractor will then take the risk for such procurement.
It is not uncommon for a client to acquire bespoke items or work directly with a preferred craftsman. In such a position, the client will need to consider the risk that the delivery of the goods or completion of the specialist works may be late, mismanaged or not coordinated against the main works programme. Any delay is likely to leave the contractor with grounds for a claim for an extension of time and possibly loss and expense as a result.
Second, be clear on who is authorized to give instructions to whom. Most commonly, the building contract will empower a Contract Administrator to give instructions on behalf of the client. However, confusion, delay and significant additional cost can ensue where other design professionals, such as interior designers, get involved and give instructions to the contractor directly, rather than properly routed through the Contract Administrator.
“Be clear who will be responsible for procuring and installing the bespoke items, and understand the effect on the risk and responsibility profile of the project as a result.”
Third, if procuring goods or services direct, do your homework. The insolvency of any party involved in the works will inevitably have an adverse effect on the works, including to the completion date. Often, clients and consultants fail to carry out basic credit checks on the financial stability of the specialists which it intends to employ direct. In those circumstances, the client will be picking up the bill if the specialist goes ‘belly up’ in the course of the project, and any consequent failure to perform results in delay and/or increased costs to the project.
Finally, once onsite, the employer or the contract administrator should check that the contractor is taking adequate measures to properly store the goods. Damage to bespoke furniture can have adverse implications to works, particularly if it is already fitted.
It is also important to understand the insurance provisions relating to site. Once onsite, damage to bespoke items may be covered by the works insurance (or “joint names” policy). The client should, of course, check who is responsible for insuring any goods in transit from manufacturer to site.