By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our cookie policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.

Read more
Smash and Grab - Image

Smash and Grab

So-called ‘smash and grab' adjudications have been the subject of much debate in the construction industry in recent years. Associate Director and Head of Construction, Sam Field MRICS, explains how to protect yourself from the ambiguity of ‘smash and grab’. 
The recent significant case of Grove Developments Limited v S&T (UK) Limited, considered as one of the so-called ‘smash and grab’ adjudications, still leaves much uncertainty regarding an employer's right to adjudicate the true value of the sum due under a construction contract after failing to serve payment notices and without first paying the amount required by the contractor.



The general feeling is that ‘smash and grab’ only occurs on large contracts, and there is an element of truth in this, but it can happen on smaller contracts too.

Indeed, my colleague, Stuart Birrell, was advising on a domestic contract worth approximately £80,000. The project was finished with the usual pile of disputed instructions, therefore during the Defects Liability Period the contractor submitted a draft final account, but it was worded it in such a way that it could also be construed as a payment notice. 

The contract administrator did not respond. In fact, he let the time run until it was too late to issue a pay less notice. The contractor adjudicated, knowing the adjudicator had no choice but to award the contractor the considerably inflated amount of money.

Why do companies ‘smash and grab’?

Despite the obvious reason of achieving more money, making this type of claim from a contractors’ point of view is not a particularly good marketing ploy and therefore it will only be done when:

(a) there is a considerable amount of money at stake, or;

(b) the contractor is in financial trouble and likely to go bust, or;

(c) has absolutely no intention for working for the client again.


Navigating the pitfalls

There are a few things you can do to try to avoid being caught in this complex situation, such as:

  • Make sure all due dates are flagged in good time to make sure you don’t miss them;

  • Make sure that you are aware of the final dates to issue pay less notices;

  • During the Defects Liability Period, make sure you comply with the terms of the contract regarding interim payments.
    (It may be prudent to amend the contract in this element);

  • Make sure you know what constitutes a payment request.


‘Smash and grab’ adjudications have not been eradicated, therefore a paying party should try to avoid the need to defend a ‘smash and grab’ adjudication at all costs by adhering to the payment procedures in their contracts.

Read the contract thoroughly and do not put it away once it has been signed; you need to know exactly what it says.

other articles

Works Completed at Contemporary Almshouse Project

We have recently completed Design and Contract Administration work on an award-winning building for The Skinners' Almshouse Charity, a constituent part of The Skinners [Livery] Company.

Read more

Learning and Working in Lockdown as a Building Surveyor

In 2020 Murray Birrell recruited two amazing assistant Building Surveyors. Rory Aldridge and Rebecca Malik joined us at time when despite pandemic lockdowns earlier in the year we were receiving new instructions from established clients and gaining some new ones as well.

Read more

A Guide to Landlord’s Consent for Tenant’s Alterations

Murray Birrell has nearly thirty years’ experience in the field of tenants’ alterations and associated Licence to Alter (LTA) work, during which time we have administered over 4,000 Tenant applications. This makes us perfectly positioned to assist clients in the process of dealing with Landlord’s consent for tenant’s alterations on buildings of any type.

Read more