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Contract guide

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RIBA Publications' Guide to MW98 is part of a series of guides to JCT forms of contract, writes David Chappell.

MW98 is a very popular form of contract, mainly because it is short and relatively easy to read. However, failure to properly complete the document or to understand it often leads to dispute. The fact that most do not reach arbitration is a reflection on the low values usually involved rather than anything else.

The book is divided into topics such as documents, obligations of the contractor, control of the works, sums properly due, certification, and dispute resolution. Appendices contain useful practice notes, an unindexed case, a clause index and a subject index. There is a very short book list and here I must declare an interest because there is no mention of my book on the same topic.

Numbered paragraphs help with finding topics quickly, but printing part of the book in silver is unhelpful.

One might quibble here and there about opinions expressed. For example, although JCT 98 requires the architect to express dissatisfaction with work within a reasonable time of its execution, MW98 has no such requirement and it would be unlikely to be implied, because the architect has no duty to the contractor to point out defects. He owes the inspection duty to the employer. Elsewhere, it is said that if the employer intends to withold any amount he 'may' give written notice. The employer must give notice if he wishes to withold, otherwise he has to pay the certified sum in full. There is much to agree with and it is refreshing to read the author's strictures against 'snagging', a practice which seems to cause endless difficulties.

In general, this is a sound attempt to do what the title suggests and guide the reader safely through the gaps in this form. The text is easy to read and potted law reports are inserted in appropriate places.

David Chappell is a director of Chappell Marshall Limited and Professor of Architectural Practice Management Research at Queen's University, Belfast. The Guide to MW98 is by Sarah Lupton, from RIBA Publications, 127pp, £20

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