Breach of contract often leads to expensive, stressful and time-consuming litigation in the courts. However, where breach of contract disputes are managed early by specialist Dispute Resolution lawyers, they can be brought to a timely and mutually agreeable conclusion with expert, sensitive negotiations.
The Dispute Resolution solicitors at London firm Selachii have a successful track record of advising and representing clients involved in breach of contract claims – whether bringing or defending a claim. Many legal disputes arise because one party has breached (or is alleged to have breached) the terms of a contract.
Remedies for Breach of Contract in English Law
A breach of contract involves the failure of one contractual party to fulfil its legal obligations under the contract, resulting in financial or other loss to the other party. The litigation lawyers at Selachii advise both commercial organisations, and individuals involved in breach of contract disputes.
What happens therefore if one party to the contract does not adhere to the agreed terms of the contract? we often take instructions from clients who are in this position but are unsure as to what they should do and are unsure as to the remedies for breach of contract.
The first thing a Solicitor will need to see is the contract and then ask the questions, was it properly constructed, was it signed by all parties, are there any specific clauses as to how any disputes in relation to the contract must be dealt with (such as mediation).
On the first point of construction of the contract, I always advise any client to have their contracts properly drafted by a qualified Solicitor. The importance of correct construction is paramount to the outcome of a dispute. Clauses should not be ambiguous, paragraphs should be properly laid out the correct 'boiler plate' clauses should be inserted (which are simply general clauses found in most contracts such as legal jurisdiction and clauses confirming that only what is contained in the contract is legally binding on the parties).
I see many contracts which are not properly drafted. They are still potentially binding on the parties but do little more than confuse issues when a dispute arises which in turn, can raise legal fees unnecessarily. Therefore, if you need to have a contract drafted, do not download it from the internet! Have a solicitor construct it for you.
Next, I will write about general remedies for breach of contract because contrary to general opinion, a breach of contract does not necessarily make the contract 'void'.
here are several remedies available (listed below) and by far the most common remedy is repudiation (people often refer to repudiation as a contract being null and void).
Repudiation, in layman’s terms means that the contract is set aside. A claim for damages will generally follow. This option is not always available and by claiming repudiation of the contract too quickly can backfire and actually place you in breach!
There are generally two types of clauses in a contract - a condition and a warranty (the latter not to be confused with motor vehicles).
A condition is something that is so important to the contract, that if it was not adhered to, the contract would not be viable to continue.
A warranty is something less important that if breached, does not necessarily mean the contract cannot continue.
I do not wish to become too technical and the easiest way to explain the above is with a couple of examples:-
Remedies for Breach of Contract
Breach of Condition
Your builder, who agrees in the contract to use certain high quality materials but instead substitutes them for low quality materials without your knowledge or permission. This is a serious breach and goes to the heart of the contract. You would be entitled to repudiate the contract and to claim damages against your builder.
Breach of Warranty
Your builder, who agrees in the contract he will arrive at 9am every day and work until 6pm, has been turning up at 9.45am and leaving at 4pm. This is not a serious breach and would most likely be interpreted as a warranty. Under these circumstances, you can still claim damages for your losses as the building work may carry on for too long meaning you could suffer loss of profits or indeed loss of enjoyment of your property.
The claim therefore would be for damages and the contract would continue.
Another remedy available however would be ‘specific performance’. If (although unlikely), you wished for the builder to carry on with the works but in accordance with the actual contract, you could make a application to the Court whereby the Court would Order the builder to carry out the works in accordance with the contract. This remedy is rare mainly because by the time one party is considering legal action, the trust will have broken down irrevocably.
Repudiation and Damages
By far, the most common form of remedy is repudiation and damages. If one party decides they are not going to adhere to the terms of the agreed contract and the other party has or will suffer financial losses because of the breach, a claim for breach of contract will follow. You would need to be able to evidence your losses and in the UK, the Court will not pay damages as a form of punishment (unlike the USA).
The most important advice I give to any client in respect of a breach is to try and resolve the issue without going to court. Quite often, mediation can resolve issues and damages can be agreed without having to go to Court.
Unfair Contract Terms Act
The most important piece of legislation which governs services is the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This legislation covers work that is carried out and the products supplied. It applies to anyone who is supplying a service to you which in turn, you pay for.
Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 you are entitled to expect that a service provided by a trader is carried out:
- with reasonable care and skill
- in a reasonable time (if there is no specific time agreed)
- for a reasonable charge (if no fixed price was set in advance)
Any goods supplied as part of the service contract must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for their purpose
- as described
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How Selachii Can Help
Selachii is a dynamic litigation law firm based in Kensington, London. We put the best interests of our clients at the heart of everything we do. We work with both businesses and private individuals, giving them legal advice and support which is unique to them and their situation.
We don’t believe in simply handing out one-size-fits-all solutions to problems. We will focus on your specific circumstances before working out the best and most cost-effective way of helping you achieve your aims.