Last edited 24 Sep 2020

Abatement in construction

Abatement is a defence against a claim for payment where it is argued that the amount claimed is incorrect because of defects in the work. If the defect is proved, then the valuation of the amount due may be reduced by the reduction in value of the works resulting from the defect. Abatement only applies to payment for labour and materials, not to professional services or to losses resulting from delay or disruption. Abatement exists as a common law right.

Abatement is often confused with set off. Set off (or contra charging) requires that a breach of contract can be demonstrated. It can permit the withholding or extinguishing of an agreed payment. Set off can be used to recover the costs of rectifying defects and any delay. Whilst set off is often accompanied by a counterclaim it is to be distinguished in that set off cannot, unlike a counterclaim, give rise to a positive balance of claim. Set off rights can either be contractual, equitable or in the case of insolvency, statutory.

Before the 2011 amendments to the Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act, set off and counterclaim were only permitted if a withholding notice was issued, whilst abatement did not require a withholding notice as the value of the works had been reduced and there was only an obligation to pay the amount properly due.

Since 2011 however, set off, counterclaim and abatement all require that a pay less notice is issued.

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