Limitation periods: when does the clock start ticking?

By Martin Petry

Building contracts place contractors under various obligations. They usually put the contractor under an obligation to ‘carry out and complete’ the works in accordance with the terms of the building contract. The contractor may additionally be under design obligations. These various obligations have a bearing on when a limitation period, within which a claim for breach of contract must be brought, starts to run. There is also the potential for claims in tort, such as negligence, in relation to which different limitation periods apply.

This article discusses what different limitation periods would be, and how the limitation period is calculated.

As will be seen, various uncertainties can arise in relation to when a contractual cause of action accrues, and hence the calculation of the limitation period within which any proceedings for breach of contract must be commenced. These uncertainties are one reason why express limitation periods, usually linked to practical completion of the works, are seen in building contracts, to give both parties certainty of the deadlines by which any claims need to be made…

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