Last edited 24 Apr 2019

Reasonable time

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If the parties to a contract or agreement have not established a specific timescale within which things must happen, the law may apply the concept of ‘reasonable time’. In that case, any time that is not manifestly unreasonable in those circumstances may be termed ‘reasonable time’. It is the time that the law considers reasonable under the specific contract for undertaking whatever is required and which is deemed necessary – and can be undertaken conveniently – as soon as circumstances permit.

The concept of reasonable time may also be applied to making a payment, accepting an offer or, for example, to a landlord who may be required to make property repairs within a reasonable time.

English law frequently requires things to be done in reasonable time but ‘reasonable time’ is never defined. The acceptable period for any particular case brought before the law may be established by referring to trade practice, custom or where there are similar precedents.

Due to its subjective and vague nature, the term causes controversy and problems in many court cases. People may argue for a variety of time frames which, while not unreasonable, are nevertheless not in alignment with a court’s decision.

Reasonable time may also be applied in a ‘time at large’ situation which may occur when a client is responsible for delaying construction works but the contract does not allow for an extension of time to be granted. In that case, time would be ‘at large’, the client would not be able to claim liquidated damages from the contractor who would then only have to complete the works in a ‘reasonable time’. See ‘time at large’ for further information.

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