What is a JCT contract? and do I need one for my build?

JCT contract

A detailed plan that can form part of your agreement through a JCT Credit @tr_architecturalservices

You may have heard about people using building contracts when dealing with their builder for an extension, a new house or many larger projects. But what is a JCT Contract? How can they help you and do you even need one for your build?

At Fifi McGee, we’re all about demystifying renovation jargon to help you feel confident and clued up before taking on your first big project. In this post, we will explain to you what a JCT contract is, the different types of JCT contract and the whether or not they are needed for your build.

Let’s get started…

What is a JCT contract?

JCT contracts (Joint Contracts Tribunal) are normally standard forms of contract for the construction of buildings. For the purposes of this guide, the contract will be between you as the client and them as the builder(s), referred to as the main contractor.

The JCT contract forms the agreement between these two parties and establishes the terms for each party.

Examples of a JCT contracts in paper form Credit @rawleigh_property

Which JCT contract do I need?

Given that building a skyscraper is different to building a school and a school is different to building a rear extension, it makes sense that the agreements for these projects are different too.

For the purposes of this guide the following JCT contracts will be worth you considering (based on what you’re doing to your property):

  • JCT Homeowners Contract - A simplified contract useful on anything up to the size of a small rear extension.

  • JCT Minor Works Contract - A contract which uses similar clauses to the rest of the JCT collection. This contract is useful on anything up to the size of a small rear extension.

  • JCT Intermediate Contract - A more complex contract to take into account slightly larger and more complex buildings. Suitable for any building up to single house builds with complex materials and sub-contractors.

There are many other JCT contracts available, however these are usually reserved for projects with a construction sum over £500,000 and much larger in size.

What does a JCT contract contain?

While the wording can be difficult to follow at first. Every JCT contract will give you instructions on how to proceed during any point before, during and after the construction of the building.

This extends but is not limited to:

  • When the contractual agreement starts

  • When the contractual agreement ends

  • What to do in the event of a dispute

  • How to calculate the payment for the builder and when

  • How to deal with variations or complications on-site

Most JCT contracts share the same structure. They are divided into 4 main sections:

  • Articles of agreement, setting out the obligations between you and your contractor,

  • Contract particulars. A section where you would fill in all the specific informations of your project (contract sum, agreed timeline etc),

  • Conditions of contact: these are the pre-written JCT clauses covering everything from risk allocation, conditions of payment, roles and responsibilities etc,

  • And a schedule, which is a list of all the documents that will be added to your contract. Typically these are architectural drawings and/or engineers calculations that your contractor will contractually have to follow.

Why should I use a JCT contract?

JCT contracts can ensure that you are left with a quality building product and avoid disputes along the way Credit @yellowkitearchitects

JCT contracts are extremely useful for both the client and the builder. They provide tried and tested protection which has been tested and revised in court for over 90 years.

Think of almost any nightmare scenario during construction, the builder walks off the site, snow delays the project, the build does not follow the design or even if it falls down. A JCT contract provides detailed instructions on how to rectify these issues in a manner that has been as close to neutral as could be found since their creation in 1931.

Do I need a JCT contract for my build?

It’s advised that you use a form of standard agreement when appointing any professional for your project, builder or architect, or anyone else. What type, is ultimately down to your project. The statistics show that the vast majority of builders tend to avoid using them, using instead their own quotations and terms and conditions that are accepted by the client. We’re not saying this is a bad thing or any kind of red flag to look out for. We’re laying out your options so you can decide how you want to proceed, as it will depend on the complexity and cost of your build.

Some builders have quoted a higher price if a JCT contract is to be used, other builders haven’t even heard of them. While this is the case, it’s not for any other reason other than the intimidating appearance a JCT seems to invoke. As explained above, JCT contracts protect both parties and have a wealth of common law to back the clauses.

Can I make changes to a JCT contract?

Sometimes, going for an off the shelf contract can feel limiting and you might be tempted to make amendments to your contract. We would not recommend you doing so as you could end up putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Any amendment should be closely checked as many clauses in a contract interact with each other and therefore amending one can put you in legal uncertainty as the contract can become inconsistent. If your contractor requires some amendments to some of the JCT clauses, have a legal expert read through them before accepting to sign anything. 

What is a contract administrator? Do I need one?

In a JCT contract, a contract administrator is the person responsible for administering the contract, meaning certifying when the work is done and making decisions when there’s uncertainty. You, the client, will need to chose who the contract administrator is. Once appointed this person should act neutrally and impartially. Anyone can be chosen to be a contract administrator but typically this can be an architect, an engineer or even yourself. There is nothing preventing you from being your own contract administrator under a JCT contract, however, it requires an understanding of contracts and it can be tricky to act neutrally when you are dealing with such important issues.

Where can I get a JCT contract?

JCT contracts can be ordered from bookshops and directly online if you wish to have a paper copy.

Alternatively, you can now use the more common online copies, which allows the contract to be filled in simply on a computer before it’s published. Some of our Reno Club members have bought their online copies from the JCT Ltd. website and administered the contracts themselves, or had their architects administer it on their behalf.

Reno Club membership is exclusive to any new renovators joining the How to Renovate a House Online Course. Take a look at the course because we’ve packed it with cost saving tips for your renovation, ways to avoid your costs spiralling, and project management guidance when the build begins.

Is your property based in Scotland?

Different rules apply for different countries. Scotland, for example, have JCT contracts which are modified to fit Scots Law and can be found at: https://www.scottishbuildingcontracts.com

Established contracts can keep you safe

It is always a good idea to use established contracts such as a JCT contract if you can. Similar contracts exist for architects, structural engineers and other professionals within the construction industry. These are all designed to be fair between both parties and are drafted by experienced lawyers.

Go into your renovation feeling clued up with our free renovation guide

Neil and Fi have produced a free 3 day email series to help new renovators feel clued up and confident before they begin their rear extensions. Learn:

  • How to cut costs and prevent your budgets spiralling

  • How to find trustworthy contractors who’ll deliver on time

  • What order to do work in (to prevent costly rework!)