Time at Large – An Explanation

A blog reader asked for an explanation of “time at large”. This is not something that I have personally come across in practical terms. For the advice that I am about to give, I am indebted to my ex-boss, Roger Knowles. Roger provides an explanation in his book, 150 Contractual Problems and their Solutions. Roger explains it arises:

“when a contract is entered into with no period of time fixed for completion. Where this occurs, the contractor’s obligation is to compete within a reasonable time.”

I have never experienced such a situation and I expect that when it does occur, it will be on smaller projects where the contract is between parties unfamiliar with good practice.

“There may also be circumstances which arise rendering a completion period fixed by the contract as no longer operable, again rendering time at large. An example is where a delay is caused by the employer and the terms of the contract make no provision for extending the completion date due to delays by the employer.”

How would this work in practice?

I have never worked on a project with such an argument. However, I have encountered projects where the employer modifies a standard contract to remove employer-risk items. An example would be a clause excluding an award of time for delay caused by late access to the site. When access is not provided at the agreed time, the contractor cannot proceed. In this case, there would be no clause under which you could claim an extension of time. As a result, the contractual period would be inoperable.

E-Courses - FIDIC, Time at Large, Claims and Disputes

Another very common reason which would cause the scenario to arise is where the contractor submits a valid extension of time claim.  This is either not responded to, or an extension of time not awarded. The contractor, therefore, completes later than the contractual completion date. In practice, this is usually resolved retrospectively after completion. The parties may negotiate an award based on the extension of time that the contractor would reasonably be entitled to, or just “doing a deal” to close the matters.

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