Getting the Most Out of Your Principal Agent
Updated: Mar 10
Before we step away from the appointments of the professional team, lets take a moment to discuss the Principal Agent.
In the JBCC contracts there is an appointed person that will act as your agent in the administration of the contract. This is the Principal Agent. He is a separate appointment to the Architect although in most instances Architects assume this role as part of their service. It is often worth your while to carefully consider this appointment.
The Principal Agent acts as your Agent and can bind you financially in terms of the contract. His actions may cause delays and extra costs, and in most instances you will have to pay for this. Even if the Principal Agent makes a mistake, you will have to prove that he was willfully negligent.
Not an easy legal hoop.
In domestic buildings there is a lot of emotion and you will do well to appoint the QS or even a Building Claims Consultant to assist specifically with programming issues. Most of the contact claims that end up in court relate to extra costs caused by delays resulting form late information from the professional team, or changes made to designs after work has started.
Remember it is not you nor the Professional team member nor Principal Agent’s job to decide when a Builder needs information. If the Builder requests info, it is always best to give it to him on time. It is for this reason that a program is agreed with the builder (by the Principal Agent and the rest of the professional team) at the onset of the project which should clearly indicate when each element of work is planned to start on site.
I would recommend that you insist on attending at least the programming meeting (also called a "progress meeting") once every 3 months, just to hear for yourself what the builders problems are and how you may be able to assist the Professional Team to finalize items that may be holding up the works. A personal email to the Builder (copied to the Principal Agent) once a month asking if he is waiting on any information will keep everyone on their toes and could save you hundreds and thousands of Rands in claims and delays.
Many activities (e.g. tiles, joinery, etc) have long “lead in” times before it will be available to be build in on site. The length of these “lead in” times are entirely up to the Builder’s judgement. So if he tells you that he wants a lead in time of 6 months to get a joiner on site, then believe him and make sure that you have the joiner appointed and the detail design finalized on time.
You may think that this is easy, but it is not. There are endless issues "that crawl out of the woodwork” as the final construction details get developed and coordinated to fit the site situation. The sooner you get the details sorted out, the better.