Contract administration & why it’s essential to have a contract administrator on your project
In the world of property, a Contractor Administration, known by the abbreviation CA is a role which is solely focused on administering contracts between the parties involved in the works. We’ll assume that these parties are likely to be you, the ‘Employer’, and the company that you have employed to actually do all the building work, known as the ‘Contractor’.
A contractor is the catch-all term for businesses that provide the staff, expertise and management of the construction works within a project you are undertaking, sometimes design work as well. Contractors are normally very experienced with handling contracts and know the clauses and terms very well which is why you should consider professional Contract Administration as part of any project.
A ‘CA’ is an essential role that in brief checks and monitors to make sure what is contractually agreed is what happens. All done in an impartial and reasonable manner which puts the contract itself at the centre.
WHAT DOES A CONTRACT ADMINISTRATOR DO?
A Contract Administrator or CA will:
- prepare a package detailing what works are to be carroed out, which may include a schedule of works, drawings, and possibly details for specific products to be used which are provided to contractors to tender.
- They will tender the work on a range of suitable contractors and receive prices from contractors
- Check the works by the contractor to make sure that these are being completed in accordance with the contract.
- A CA will also administer the terms of the contract if there is a dispute such as poor workmanship, incorrect product use, or if the works are not completed on time.
RICS say that the role of the CA has been in existence for centuries, just in various different forms. It wasn’t formalised under the term Contract Administration until 1987, but it is well established nowadays.
RICS also say that as the CA is administering the contract between two parties and is expected to make impartial decisions but is still paid by the employer, a CA has a dual role which can arise in complications. These are:
- An agency function – acting for the employer
- A decision making function – making decisions that govern all parties
The key takeaway is that both the employer and the contractor can challenge the decision of the CA. There is a dispute resolution procedure detailed within a contract which can provide a route to remedy any disputes.
Do I Need A Building Surveyor To Be A Contract Administrator?
The short answer is no, you don’t need a Building Surveyor to be a CA.
The long answer is that it depends on your project works and who is most appropriate to design or prepare the specification of all the works needed to be priced by contractors.
What is a Specification? Well, it’s a detailed list of what tasks are going to be done as part of the project and what components/products will be used. A good specification should include lots of guidance on technical details as well as instructions or drawings.
Where a Building Surveyor can be particularly handy to have as CA is when it comes to repairs and maintenance to external or internal fabric of an existing building. Building Surveyors are the most well-rounded profession to understand the complex needs of an existing property building when it comes to maintenance and upkeep.
On the flip side, if you’re involved in a new build project, CAT A or B Fit out, specialist designs or installations for building services and M&E, then explore Architects, Building Services Engineers, Project Managers (PM) and Quantity Surveyors (QS) as viable alternatives.
What Is The Difference Between A Contract Administrator And A Project Manager
In the last segment we ran through the nuances of a Building Surveyor as a CA and that you could also use people qualified as architects and Projects Managers amongst others.
There is another important distinction to make and this is the difference between a Contract Administrator and a Project Manager. Not a PM that is acting as a CA but rather two separate jobs working alongside one another.
The key takeaway is that a CA and PM are more different than you might think.
A Project Manager is a project ‘leader’. They will specialise in bringing together and managing the output and programme for a team of other professionals to deliver components of a project. This skill set makes them suited to running large and complex projects involving architects and engineers to design a building or fit out a property. Mainly because their job is to plan, control and organise everybody else. A Project Manager might describe it as ‘herding cats’.
Project managers may come from a specialism like Building or Quantity Surveying or be qualified in Project Management as a profession in its own right. They aren’t there to get as down and dirty in the detail like a CA would, rather the CA would be a single component on the Project Manager’s team.
CAN I BE MY OWN CONTRACT ADMINISTRATOR?
So you want to know if you can do it all by yourself? Well there’s good news and bad news.
The good news first. Yes, you absolutely could.
If you want to be your own contract administrator, then there is nothing to stop you from taking on the role.
The bad news is that there are still some caveats to keep in mind because you’ll need to be comfortable taking on a wide array of work including:
- Technical specification writing
- Design for the work
- You’ll need to understand the ins & outs of your building
- Be happy to administer legal contractual matters and having legal responsibility for the outcomes
- Be comfortable with negotiating costs and accounts
- Be able to assess works by a contractor.
Contract Administrators do a lot and a good one can be very handy. Whilst you can do it yourself weigh up your expertise and experience with the list of skills above and see what the potential risks are to the project.
Do i even need my own contract?
Like a lot of things in life its always easier to have a piece of evidence to show what was agreed or proof that you did state your expectations in writing before everything went awry. In short, you should always have some sort of contract in writing setting out the rights, expectations and responsibilities of each party.
One rule of thumb that is often quoted by Building Surveyors is that the seemingly straight forward, simple, downright ordinary projects are the ones more likely to go wrong.
At the start, you may not feel a formal JCT contract is needed but, and here’s a key takeaway, do beware of the contractors own T&C’s as they will likely favour the contractor more than you. Always read anything you are asked to sign and seek legal advice if you are unsure. The other parties are in business – not to be you pal. Think along the lines of ‘good fences make good neighbours’ and you won’t go too far wrong.
1) Both the employer and the contractor can challenge the decision of the CA.
2) A Building Surveyor makes a great choice for CA on existing building projects because they have lots of experience looking at pre-existing defects and issues.
3) The Contract Administrator is not the same as the Project Manager. They fulfil very different roles.
4) Contract Administration is a complex and wide-ranging role. Not to be taken lightly if you go want to DIY.
5) Beware of the contractors own T&C’s as they will likely favour the contractor much more than you, the employer.
Contract Administration is a fascinating subject which, when done well, can add exceptional value to a project. It helps all parties and still offers resolution to disputes as part of its process. It is there to help not hinder and can save a huge amount of stress on the part of the employer
Put simply professional Contract Administration takes the emotion out of your building project by allowing the employer to have a more pragmatic relationship with the contractor, which saves time, money and hassle.
Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast A-Z of Building Surveying, it’s Cardoe Martin’s 20th Anniversary so this episode will be a mini birthday celebration, neatly socially distanced of course with Graham Cardoe and Graham’s the Co-Founder and Chair of Cardoe Martin. Welcome Graham it’s nice to have you on again how are you today?
Thank you so much for joining us in our celebrations today – we are so grateful to you – our clients, business associates and colleagues – for your continued support of the business and we hope you enjoy the day.
There are options dependent on your situation, level of concern or simply the sheer number of questions you have about your prospective property.
If you have any doubts over which option to choose, give Cardoe Martin a call and we can help point you in the right direction. Find us at www.CarodeMartin.co.uk