The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996: Construction Sector Guide

What is the Construction Act?

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (HGCRA), commonly referred to as the Construction Act, significantly impacts the construction industry in England and Wales. Enacted on 1 May 1998 and subsequently amended on 1 October 2011, the Construction Act was designed to ensure prompt payments and provide swift dispute resolution mechanisms. This article provides a detailed overview of the Act, focusing on its provisions, amendments, and implications for stakeholders in the construction sector.

As experts in the construction sector, we have extensive experience acting for clients to navigate the complexities of the Construction Act. If you need advice or legal assistance, contact our specialist construction lawyers for a Free Consultation at 0207 459 4037 today.

Key Provisions of the Construction Act

The HGCRA introduced several pivotal changes aimed at improving the efficiency and fairness of the construction industry. The main provisions include:

  1. Right to Interim Payments (Section 109): The Act mandates interim, periodic, or stage payments to ensure continuous cash flow throughout the supply chain.
  2. Payment Notices (Sections 110 and 110A): The payer must issue a payment notice within five days of the due date, specifying the amount due and the basis of its calculation. If the payer fails to issue a notice, the payee can issue a default payment notice.
  3. Adjudication (Section 108): Parties to a construction contract have the statutory right to refer disputes to adjudication at any time, with decisions typically rendered within 28 days.
  4. Suspension for Non-Payment (Section 112): Contractors can suspend performance if payments are not made by the final date for payment.
  5. Prohibition of ‘Pay-When-Paid’ Clauses (Section 113): Such clauses, which condition payment on the payer receiving payment from a third party, are generally prohibited.

Amendments Under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009

In October 2011, the Construction Act was amended. The 2011 amendments aimed to close loopholes and enhance the effectiveness of the original Act. The changes included:

  1. Application to Oral Contracts: The Act now applies to construction contracts not wholly in writing, although adjudication clauses must still be in writing.
  2. Enhanced Payment Notice Regime (Section 110B): The amendments introduced the concept of a ‘pay less notice’, replacing the withholding notice, which must be issued if the payer intends to pay less than the amount stated in the payment notice.
  3. Adjudicator’s Power to Correct Errors: Adjudicators now have the authority to correct clerical or typographical errors within five days of their decision.

Practical Implications for Clients

Understanding and complying with the Construction Act is crucial for clients to mitigate risks and ensure smooth project execution. Here are some practical implications and recommendations:

  1. Contract Drafting and Administration: Ensure that all construction contracts, whether oral or written, include clear provisions for payment mechanisms and dispute resolution in line with the Act. Utilize standard contract templates that incorporate these provisions to avoid non-compliance.
  2. Payment Practices: Implement robust procedures for issuing and responding to payment notices. Ensure that all relevant personnel are trained on the importance of timely and accurate payment notices to avoid disputes.
  3. Adjudication Readiness: Be prepared for adjudication by maintaining thorough records of project progress, communications, and financial transactions. Quick and effective dispute resolution can save time and costs compared to litigation.
  4. Suspension Rights: Understand the rights to suspend work for non-payment and the associated procedures. Use this provision judiciously to protect financial interests without jeopardizing project timelines.

Our team of experienced construction lawyers is here to help. Contact us for a Free Consultation at 0207 459 4037 or through our online booking form to discuss your needs and secure professional legal support.

Illustrative Examples of the Construction Act in Action

Interim Payment Dispute

ABC Construction Ltd. is contracted for a large commercial project with monthly interim payments. After three months, the client delays payment. Under the HGCRA, ABC Construction Ltd. issues a payment notice but receives no response. They then issue a default payment notice. Still, the payment is not made. ABC Construction Ltd. can legally suspend work after giving seven days’ notice, putting pressure on the client to settle the overdue payments promptly.


XYZ Builders Ltd. and their subcontractor, Elite Electrical Services, face a dispute over the quality of electrical installations. XYZ Builders Ltd. refer the matter to adjudication under Section 108 of the Act. The adjudicator, appointed within seven days, investigates and renders a decision within 28 days, resolving the dispute efficiently without lengthy litigation.

Pay Less Notice

Global Constructions is working on a public infrastructure project. During an interim payment cycle, they realize some work doesn’t meet the specified standards. They issue a pay less notice within the stipulated time frame, detailing the deductions and the reasons. The subcontractor receives clear communication, reducing the risk of future disputes and maintaining project cash flow integrity.

Suspension for Non-Payment

MegaBuild Ltd. is working on a housing development project. After completing significant milestones, they issue an invoice for interim payment. The client, however, fails to make the payment by the due date. MegaBuild Ltd. issues a payment notice and subsequently a default payment notice, but the client still does not pay. MegaBuild Ltd. then suspends work after providing seven days’ notice as per Section 112 of the Act. This action compels the client to settle the payment to avoid further project delays and potential legal repercussions.

Case Example – £1.2m recovered for sub-contractor plus costs within 1 month

Client A approached our expert construction lawyers after receiving a contentious Pay Less Notice which the client assessed at zero. Our dedicated lawyers swiftly analysed the situation, and evidence (including an expert valuation report), identified key areas of contention, and helped Client A successfully challenge and mitigate the financial implications of the notice. Our expert construction lawyers were able to recover a significant multi-million-pound sum of over £1.2m for the subcontractor.

FAQs About the Construction Act – Expert Answers

1: What types of contracts are covered by the Construction Act?

The Construction Act applies to all construction contracts, including contracts for architectural, engineering, and surveying services related to construction operations, whether written or oral.

2: What is the significance of the ‘pay less notice’?

A payless notice allows the payer to notify the payee of any intention to pay less than the amount specified in the payment notice. It must state the amount considered due and the basis for its calculation.

3: Can adjudication be used for any dispute under a construction contract?

Yes, adjudication can be used for any dispute arising under a construction contract at any time. It is a quick and cost-effective method for resolving disputes compared to traditional litigation.

4: What happens if a construction contract does not comply with the Act’s requirements?

If a construction contract does not comply with the Act’s requirements, the relevant provisions of the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations 1998, as amended, will apply.

5: Are there any exceptions to the prohibition of ‘pay-when-paid’ clauses?

Generally, ‘pay-when-paid’ clauses are prohibited. However, they can be included if the clause is expressly agreed upon and involves third-party insolvency conditions.

6: How does the Act impact Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects?

The Act applies to construction contracts under PPP projects, but the primary concession agreement may be excluded. It’s essential to structure sub-contracts in compliance with the Act to avoid potential risks related to payment and dispute resolution.

7: What are the penalties for non-compliance with the Act?

Non-compliance can lead to disputes, suspension of work, and the application of the Scheme for Construction Contracts. This can result in additional administrative burdens and potential financial penalties.

Expert Construction Solicitors in London

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 plays a pivotal role in ensuring fair and efficient operations within the construction industry. For clients, understanding and adhering to these regulations is essential to mitigate risks and foster positive contractual relationships.

Our lawyers’ extensive industry-specific knowledge and our commitment to justice make us the preferred choice for many businesses in the construction industry. Our lawyers are passionate about this industry and are members of the Society of Construction Law.

We are recognised among the best lawyers in England & Wales and have regularly been asked and featured to write authoritative articles in the Financial Times, the Law Society and LexisNexis and have been quoted in City AM, the New Law Journal, Law Society Gazette and Litigation Futures.

Our expert construction lawyers offer regulated, independent & confidential legal advice and are dedicated members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, the London Solicitors’ Litigation Association, the Association of Cost Lawyers, the Insolvency Lawyers Association and the Commercial Litigation Association.

Should you have any further questions or require legal assistance, contact our expert lawyers at Go Legal for a Free Consultation at 0207 459 4037 today.


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