Is Time Always of the Essence in Construction Contracts?

Whether it’s the construction of a new shopping center or a new home, many people assume that a construction time of the essence construction contractproject will be completed by a particular date. For example, the owner of that shopping center may anticipate a date that he/she needs to have the space finished in order to market it and thereby obtain a stream of income to defray his/her expenses. The owner of that home-under-construction may be without shelter if the home isn’t built timely.

Questions often arise around whether a project, or benchmarks leading up to the completion of the project, must be completed within a specific timeframe. Does the construction contract state an explicit completion date? Does it define what exactly constitutes completion? Does it express that time is of the essence? What if the contract attaches a proposed schedule but has no other reference to a completion date? What if that schedule was only an estimate but the owner of the project nevertheless relied upon its accuracy in agreeing to hire the contractor, investing in the shopping center, or selling his/her old home?

In Texas, time isn’t ordinarily of the essence in construction contracts. Moreover, a stated date for performance does not imply or mean that time is of the essence. The contract must expressly make time of the essence or there must be something in the nature or purpose of the contract and the circumstances surrounding it making it apparent that the parties intended that time be of the essence. Otherwise, the contract must be performed within a reasonable amount of time. And a judge, jury, or arbitrator may have to determine what “reasonable” means.

In our Law 101 posts, we define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more complex discussions.

 

 

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