What are the most common causes of construction disputes?

By Samuel Okoronkwo

We have all heard the phrase, ‘Prevention is better than the cure’, correct? Well, this very much applies to avoiding construction disputes due to project delays. It is a common misconception in the construction industry that legal advice should only be sought as a remedy when a dispute arises. Integrating this legal counsel into day-to-day operations will significantly reduce the risk of disputes happening or ensure you are fully prepared.

Let us explore some of the ways construction projects can be delayed, how this may lead to disputes and why seeking legal counsel prior to these events will speed up the resolution process.

There are three main causes of delays and subsequent disputes…


Most disputes of any kind can be narrowed down to financial issues. However, there are many ways in which this can manifest during construction projects or even before.

Every construction project will have a budget and it is essential for the terms to be solidified before any work is started. Failure to do so, or drafting a budget with inaccuracies, will cause disputes sometime during the timeframe of the project.

Going over budget or running out of money will lead to projects being delayed for weeks, months or even shut down altogether. These delays will then lead to disputes as contract terms are not being met. It is essential to have safeguards drawn up in contracts that allow provisions for budget adjustments should this become necessary.


We have already discussed how disputes can arise when projects are delayed due to financial issues however, that is not the only way in which time can be a disrupting factor.

Currently, the construction industry is suffering a skills gap that threatens the success of projects. Many skilled workers have either retired or moved to a different industry altogether and apprenticeships that promise fresh skill are being abandoned. Without enough of these skilled workers, construction projects may take longer to complete.

If projects are not completed on time then this will lead to disputes. Effective project planning and contract construction must take into consideration these possibilities and ensure the skill-to-work ratio is matched.


So, a lack of skilled workers will threaten completion times for construction projects. However, even when a project is completed on time, if it does not meet the quality standards agreed, this has the potential to cause disputes.

Again, this highlights the importance of having the right skills attached to a project in the first place. But, skilled workers can still become unreliable due to injury, putting the quality of a project under threat. One way in which injury can happen, or a general reduction in project quality, is through poor communication.

Everyone should be updated if there are changes to a project’s schedule, material or deadlines. Having a main point of contact will make this much easier as this one person can keep track of documentation, including emails, phone calls and even in-person conversations. This includes ensuring contract terms are being adhered to.

How to prepare for construction disputes

Overall, much of what causes disputes in construction projects can be dealt with at the contract drafting stage. A barrister will be able to advise you on any and all formal steps during this process, as well as provide knowledge of what must be included.

However, in the event of a dispute, this same legal counsel will be able to guide and support you through the resolution process.

Value Adding Approach

Our approach to legal practice is always to articulate creative and value-adding solutions for clients whilst delivering timely, efficient and affordable professional services. All clients conduct their affairs within a legal context and Mercantile Barristers’ role is to advise on the conduct of their transactions and affairs in ways that avoid conflict and disputes.


However, should a dispute become inevitable, then our prior engagement would have assured that all the necessary precautions have been taken and mitigating steps adopted. Thus, clients will begin any dispute resolution in a strong position to achieve their desired objectives.


Whether by adjudication, arbitration, litigation, members at Mercantile Barristers will adopt a firm, swift and decisive approach to achieve the best possible results for clients within the shortest possible time. We recognise that no two cases are the same, so we will adapt our style to suit the occasion.


Make An Enquiry

By submitting this form, I accept this website’s Privacy Policy