August 24, 2023

The crucial role of accurate record-keeping in preventing and managing construction disputes

The construction industry, with its complexity and multifaceted nature, is no stranger to disputes. In a time when project scope changes, payments, and timeline disagreements are leading causes of conflict, the importance of accurate record-keeping cannot be overstated.  

They are often your first and last line of protection during mediation, arbitration or potential commercial litigation via the courts.  

Why you need good record-keeping 

Good records give developers the ability to reconstruct events through evidence-based storytelling, which not only aids in dispute resolution but can also mitigate conflict altogether.  

Treating every record with the meticulousness associated with a developing dispute fosters a heightened awareness that helps identify gaps and vulnerabilities.  

Put simply, treat every contract, agreement or communication as though it will end up in a dispute and build up your defences. 

What constitutes a record in the construction context?  

The answer is broader than one might think. From photographs, site diaries, and time sheets to messages on platforms like WhatsApp and even Snapchat, every piece of information can serve as evidence. It’s the accuracy and focus of these records that minimise conflict. 

Having processes in place to manage and store this information is critical and can be a vital tool in your legal team building up a better case, should the worse happen.  

In a recent webinar with BIMPlus, Ellie Greatholder, the in-house UK Director for Commercial and Legal at Buro Happold emphasised, that “where there is no contemporary record to support a claim, the claim fails,” quoting case law to underscore the legal significance of proper record keeping.  

Her practical experience resonates with the same notion: “In my experience, the party with the most records is most likely to win. If it can’t be evidenced, it didn’t happen. That’s why information management matters.” 

Where is your information stored? 

The question of information storage is another pressing concern. According to a recent study by Mail Manager, a third of the respondents in the construction industry are worried about their project information not being readily available.  

With a rising number of businesses experiencing disputes – 91 per cent in 2023, up from 63 per cent in 2021 – ensuring that information is properly stored and accessible is paramount. 

This is not the responsibility of the legal team that you may one day appoint during a dispute, but they will certainly have a better case to put forward if you do improve how information is stored and accessed.   

The scope of liability 

Recent changes in legislation further elevate the importance of record keeping. The Building Safety Act’s extended limitation periods create a wider scope for potential liability, extending up to 30 or 15 years depending on the completion date of a dwelling.  

This long-term extension necessitates robust evidence preparation for potential claims and prudent adjustments to document retention policies. 

It is one of a number of policy and legislative changes that highlight the importance of keeping, maintaining and managing good records.  

Time to improve your record-keeping 

The construction industry’s evolving landscape demands a proactive approach to dispute prevention and management.  

Accurate record-keeping has emerged as a vital tool, one that transcends mere compliance and transforms into a strategic advantage. 

Emphasising the principle that every piece of information matters, the industry must adopt best practices in information management.  

Whether it’s through adapting to new legal requirements or leveraging technology to facilitate easy access to project information. 

Accurate record-keeping is not just a legal obligation; it’s an essential foundation for a transparent, accountable, and dispute-free construction process.  

If you require support with a construction dispute, our experienced team is ready to support you, so please get in touch.